LPC vs LCSW?

Discussion in 'Mental Health and Social Welfare' started by golightning, Feb 11, 2017.

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  1. golightning

    golightning

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    I know that's such a vague question, but I was wondering, maybe from some of you guys in either field, which would you consider the "better"? I am currently a psych undergrad and love learning about biology, sociology, and psychology. Heck, my first semester of college I had thought I wanted to be an engineer, which I learned quickly I hated, but if it honestly were not for sociology and psychology, I would've just thought college in general wasn't for me. I want to help people, but 3 and a half years in, with probably around 3 more to go, I want to make an acceptable amount of money that I could live with. Also, can an LCSW really diagnose mental disorders? I don't mean to sound like an idiot, but I honestly never knew that was part of their job duty until reading that from a little forum about it. Thanks everyone :)
     
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  3. Salvador

    Salvador 2+ Year Member

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    Hey there,

    I don't work in the field yet (Currently at USC for their MSW Program), but I have heard that the LCSW is much more flexible than then LPC. Do some more research and you will find this to be true.
     
  4. golightning

    golightning

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    I legitimately was on USC's website for their MSW program as you posted (that tuition scares me though lol), but I have been reading like crazy about it lately. I'm in N.C., but there are a ton more jobs on job boards for LCSW. I just honestly never saw Social Workers in this sense, otherwise I would've gotten a BSW so that I could fly through a MSW with advanced standing credentials. Thanks for the reply!
     
  5. Salvador

    Salvador 2+ Year Member

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    The GRAD Plus student loan is where it's at (It's very convenient, or if you are a veteran, the post 9/11 Gi Bill/ Voc Rehab would cover tuition+supplies).
    USC also offers their MSW program online thru their Virtual Academic Campus (VAC). They offer it full time (4 semesters), part- time (6 semesters), and extended part-time (8 semesters).

    Being in the part-time track myself (currently working full time as a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Counselor and Auditor), it gives me more time to fully understand and grasp the material.
    My undergrad was B.S., Psychology, so it gave me a good foundation for Social Work.
     
  6. golightning

    golightning

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    I'll definitely have to look this up. I've done a couple semesters fully online before (I have an IBD), so I wouldn't even be against doing it online. Thanks!
     
  7. aftermidnight

    aftermidnight 2+ Year Member

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    Social work is a very broad field, and your misconception about scope of practice for social work is a common one. Clinical Social Workers (generally means a master's degree + at least 2 years of clinical supervision) can diagnose mental illness and do psychotherapy. Anyone that would suggest otherwise is simply wrong. You will frequently find LPCs, LCSWs, and LMFTs doing the same type of work. I would recommend finding the program that fits best for you overall, rather than based on any perceived notion of the title. You will actually find that social workers (LCSW) are preferred over counselors (LPC) in terms of hiring and insurance. (This preference has a lot to do with historical issues and politics than being able to determine the quality of someone based on the letters next to their name. Social work as a separate and title-protected profession has existed longer than counseling.) This is a good overview of some of the different types of practice social workers are involved in: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-2
     
  8. golightning

    golightning

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    I definitely didn't understand the depth of Social Work until recently. Now in hindsight, I probably would have gone the BSW route just so I'd be eligible for the advanced standing MSW. C'est la vie though. Thanks!
     
  9. CyouRAnyway

    CyouRAnyway

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    If you want to strictly counsel individuals, LPC is the path to go. Better trained in actual counseling.
     
  10. golightning

    golightning

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    Thanks for the reply! I am still having a difficult time deciding. I have a friend completing a PsyD at FIT and that sort of catches my attention, except for the price, and I think the price is what's scaring the crap out of me lately. I know 4 years ago a $40k salary would've been actually decent to me, but it just seems so mediocre when I think of how much time this takes (although I am hoping I'm not sounding greedy because I am simple, but just want to live comfortably.) Then again, if I'd go to med school, being a psychiatrist sure has it's perks, but it has a huge price tag as well and in my area (Charlotte, N.C.) the med schools closest are super competitive. Anyways, I think I'm just going to have to start trying to shadow all of these professions. Thanks again though :)
     
  11. Psych NP Guy

    Psych NP Guy 2+ Year Member

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    As an unbiased individual, I would suggest LMSW - LCSW. With either credential you'll likely have to pay someone to "supervise" you, but the SW's have a better political backing with greater transferability. Also, you can presently only provide military service and bill Medicare as a LCSW. Look at your future pay structure and service location.

    Again, as an unbiased guy, what I have observed is that I've witnessed more LCSWs become overly enmeshed with patients in their quest to provide advocacy and empowerment versus LPCS. As happenstance, I've seen SWs rise higher in the hierarchy, but that may be due to their global indoctrination versus the individual and family indoctrination of LPCs.

    If all you want to do is be a therapist, LCSW is probably the most versatile. In the end you'll be providing psychotherapy with either route. The credential that can do the most for YOU is likely the better for you.
     
  12. wtfook

    wtfook

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    I would suggest researching the area that you wish to get your licensure in. Depending on where you are, the LPC vs LCSW distinction may be more prominent or less important. For example, LPC licensure is very new in California and it is very difficult to get licensure there. They require more classes than other states and the entry level pay before licensure is significantly less. However, in the state of Pennsylvania (where I am currently working on LPC licensure), LPC and LCSW eligible and licensed individuals are hired for the same jobs. Most places consider them equal with no favoritism for one of the other. At least within the counseling profession. One individual stated above that LPCs can't bill Medicare, which I don't think is a broadly true statement. In Pennsylvania, you can bill medicare for your services (because I do as a therapist at a nation wide agency) as an LPC or LCSW. This may not be true in every state.

    So essentially, consider where you want to be licensed and what the job market is for those licensed professions. If you're in Cali, I'd recommend getting the LCSW. If you're in the north east, it's a lot less differentiated and I'd say go with the program that will give you the best bang for your buck.Consider whether the program will be within your budget, if the program has a good reputation, and if it will provide the training and placements necessary for what you want to do in the future. You'll find that clinically oriented MSW trainees share the same internship and practicum placements as master's level counseling interns so really it's about the fit of the program. Location is important because both professions license by state. That means if you leave the state you're licensed in, you have to go through paperwork stuff to transfer it over and sometimes the state will require additional classes or supervised hours.

    Finally, social work programs have a different philosophy from counseling programs because social work is a different profession. Although clinical social workers can practice psychotherapy, many social work programs from which they were trained are coming from a different conceptualization of the field than counseling. Check out the program philosophies and curriculums and decide which you connect with more. There is no better or worse profession, only one that you think aligns best with your values and how you picture your own work in the future.
     
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  13. DreamyPursuit88

    DreamyPursuit88

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    Graduated with my B.A. in Psych over five years ago and have mostly worked in the mental health or related fields since. Currently in my third semester of an MSW program and am withdrawing to begin a Clinical Mental Health Counseling (track to become LPC) program in a few months. I've also worked as an MSW intern for the last 6-7 months at an outpatient mental health counseling agency. Here are the most relevant factors that I found in making my decision:
    -IMO the curricula you will find in masters-level counseling programs are far superior for future psychotherapists. For example, I will learn a plethora of counseling theories, psychological development and psychopathology, receive ample practice in mock therapy sessions, and be required to attend numerous therapy sessions, analyze my own personal growth alongside my future career, and participate in the MMPI-2 inventory all before beginning my CMHC practicum. Only a few of these things are covered and with little depth in the MSW program.
    -Unlike counseling (for the most part), social work as a field overall is very political and leans very much to the left. You will be taught many theories in this ideological perspective (e.g. Marx is a common theme and highly revered) with almost no room for dissenting thought - this is what finally pushed me out of the program. I have talked with numerous LSWs and LCSWs personally, and done enough research on my own to confirm this is the case nationwide almost ubiquitously. All NASW-accredited MSW programs require social policy classes, which typically require students to participate in political activism. I recommend browsing the NASW website extensively - their press releases, political affiliations and lobbying efforts, and code of conduct required of all social workers speak for themselves in the aforementioned regard. As a student intern you will be required to become a member and purchase liability insurance through them. I'm not personally interested in becoming a social justice warrior, only helping people gain the tools to live better lives. Sure, an LCSW has negligibly more prestige (for now) than an LPC; but that's simply based on seniority rather than superiority. LPCs are quickly gaining ground legislatively.
    -If you have any interest in pursuing your doctorate later on to become a psychologist (e.g. Psy.D, Ph.D, Ed.D, etc.) you have a better chance of getting credit transfers from a master's in counseling or psychology than a master's in social work.

    With all that said I am speaking of the education requirements, not the students. I have the utmost respect for ALL competent mental health professionals, and have great respect for the many mental health professionals with whom I've worked and received mentoring from, regardless of the letters next to their names.
     
  14. wtfook

    wtfook

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    I definitely agree that if your end goal is to become a practicing therapist then the LPC is more targeted and will include the classes necessary for master's level practice. A person above stated that the MSW is more flexible and that's true. If you're unsure about where you want to take your social services career, that might be a better choice. But if you know you'd like to practice therapy (with no interest in research), the LPC is more specific and will provide you with more of the academic background. Although MSW and LPC practitioners do the same practicums and internships if they're both interested in psychotherapy work.

    I'm not sure I agree with you about the SJW aspect though. Social justice is a huge component of the counseling field. Like. Massive. I'm in my second round of PhD interviews and graduated from an LPC master's program and all the counseling psych and counseling master's programs I interviewed at emphasized the social justice aspect and multicultural perspective of the counseling field. All were interested in my own thoughts on these topics. I suppose the level to a which an LPC program emphasizes how involved you should be in social advocacy varies. MSW programs may be more intense since the traditional field of social work is to connect underserved clients with resources in their community, which in and of itself can be a form of social justice work. But I can't imagine you'd not encounter a lot of dialogue on diversity and social justice at any LPC program.

    But I'm curious, has that not been your experience at the LPC program you'll be starting soon?
     
  15. DreamyPursuit88

    DreamyPursuit88

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    This is a good point and it is important to be competent in working with people from all backgrounds and walks of life since our client base will be just that in most settings. My understanding is that counseling programs typically tackle that from a respectful, practical perspective whereas social work makes it an ideology. The concept of individual responsibility is all but erased and instead the environment and culture is blamed for nearly all client problems. I do not think that is a good premise to work from, particularly given the plethora of psychological research showing how greatly personality and psychological development are inherited versus previously thought.
     
  16. wtfook

    wtfook

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    I'm wondering if that was specific to your program? You would probably know better than me since you have actually attended an MSW program and I haven't. I have talked with MSW interns who shared my same placements, but I never got that impression. Of course we don't necessarily make a habit of talking about our programs philosophies with one another in our leisure time. ;) I only know that social justice is a part of both professions. As for the personal responsibility thing, I have always been taught that it's a balance. For some individuals it is very much environmental. For others it might be more personal. How you decide to approach that person therapeutically hinges a lot on what the needs of that client are and what kind of theoretical orientation you're operating from.
     
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  17. Goobernut

    Goobernut LMSW 5+ Year Member

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    Here's another opinion in the mix. I feel like I'm a broken record, but don't believe anyone who tells you all master's programs of a type are "the same." Master's programs are HIGHLY VARIABLE and you cannot assume that any of ONE particular degree is more competent than another. I chose MSW because of licensing issues in the state I wanted to practice in. This is so important to take into consideration.

    I feel like I got a good counseling foundation -- not spectacular for sure. But I've met MSWs from even my own program who had different professors and graduated in different years that I have doubts about. I've met LPC's who came from for profit colleges and local home grown private religious institutions that churn out LPCs that are terrible. They got very poor foundations for counseling, I don't know what the standards were, but they are for sure subpar. We won't hire individuals from those local institutions.

    Yes, it is true that in general, social work has to have policy classes. However, USC has a great reputation and I'd be willing to be someone from their MSW program has an amazing foundation. I'd take them over a generic LPC focused program any day. When you are considering a master's degree you MUST look at the reputation of the specific program -- not of the university as a whole. Don't assume because it's a solid state school that it will have a clinically focused MSW program. Don't assume because it's a great private institution that it's LPC program will make sure you are able to pass the licensing exam at the end.

    I do not doubt that some individuals have a poor experience in an MSW program. However, I had classes with an individual who was married to an LPC who said, "my education was terrible, I see how successful and competent LCSWs are in this field, I'd advise that route." Honestly, these are just all anecdotal stories, so look at the programs you are comparing and see how employable they are after graduating. Look at job boards and see what credentials they are requesting. Look at what population you want to serve in the state you want to practice in. These are all important factors. Licensing issues can break you, and there are few people who will talk about this. There are some states in which LCSW won't be able to work in certain industries, yet in other states LCSWs are preferred for those areas.

    For every "non-clinical MSW" program someone complains about, I can show you an absolute trash master's level counseling program. They are highly un-regulated (unlike LMFT). I'm just going to keep screaming this from the rooftops, PLEASE REVIEW MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING LAWS AND LICENSURE FOR THE STATE YOU'D LIKE TO PRACTICE IN.

    This does not apply so much to PhD's, but is highly important for masters level clinicians. In my state I could NOT be working where I am or engaging in the programs I'm in right now if I had gotten an LPC. PROGRAM MATTERS!!!
     
  18. Goobernut

    Goobernut LMSW 5+ Year Member

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    I was in an MSW program and I don't feel this was true for my program at all. For fairness, some individuals in my cohort said that counseling programs completely ignore and refuse to teach that an individuals environment has an effect on one's psychology. Both extremes are wrong.
     
  19. wtfook

    wtfook

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    Are you practicing in CA? Because from my Cali friends I've heard how hard the road is if you're LPC there. MSWs are much more established and generally have a lot more flexibility than LPCs. It's very different in the northeast where I practice. I completely agree, and I'd said it earlier, that your state's norms and who is hiring whom can be a huge factor in what kind of program you decide to apply for. The other is the level of instruction and standard of practice. TECHNICALLY you all need to take the same classes in order to even be eligible for licensure, but who knows if the quality of those classes are equivalent.
     
  20. DreamyPursuit88

    DreamyPursuit88

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    Goobernut makes a good point that MSW programs can vary tremendously in terms of the clinical learning completed, but inevitably the first year will conform to very generalist (non-clinical) standards. Also, most of the better programs I've come across, especially the online ones -- like USC -- are incredibly expensive, some nearly in the six figures. I don't think any degree below a doctorate is worth that kind of debt unless you are wealthy enough to forgo the need for loans. For many, in-state public universities are the only economically responsible options.

    I'm not sure what you're referring to when you say un-regulated. The LPC licensure standards for accrediting graduate MHC programs are maintained by CACREP just as LMFTs are by COAMFTE and LSWs by the NASW. Echoing the above, LPCs are certainly limited in California and a few other places where they have ample opportunity outside of Medicare (e.g. SNFs) in most states otherwise. Here in Pennsylvania, LMFTs seem to be the most limited from all three, but not significantly.
     

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