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MSW vs LPC vs School Counseling

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by smores17, Aug 9, 2011.

  1. smores17

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    Hi all! I've spent countless hours browsing forums and talking to various people trying to gain insight into my possible career plans. I found this wonderful forum after spending a few hours browsing posts, I have decided to offer up my situation and see if anyone has some advice.

    I graduated with a BA in psychology and have been working in social services for the past few years (Child Protective Services). This particular area of social work is not for me. It has taught me a lot and I've learned so many valuable skills in talking to families, counselors and medical staff everyday, but this is not my "forever job." I know abuse/neglect is a part of almost any social work job and I'm not opposed to referring to CPS or maybe working in more of a therapeutic or forensic interviewer type position, but the intake and investigating parts are not what I want.

    I think I would love to one day go into private practice, counseling children, couples and families. A friend of mine knows an MSW that does private counseling with children dealing with their parent's divorce, that seemed really interesting to me. I had it narrowed down to either getting my MSW or LPC, but I also feel that I would love to be a school counselor. The only problem with that is that I would have to become a certified teacher and teach for two years first. I think I would love doing that, but it would be a long stretch to get to where I wanted.

    Is anyone a school counselor that has an opinion on this? I also would not want to limit myself, I know you can sit for an LPA with the school counseling degree, but would that be more "extra" private outside work in addition to your school counseling job? Or could you completely change over and still support yourself? I would love to do school social work too, but I find here in Texas those jobs are limited and competitive. I saw this question regarding whether or not there was another degree school counselors could get to also allow them to do private practice or change careers altogether, does anyone know of something like this in Texas?

    Right now I feel that my option would either be to become certified to teach and then do the counseling program. It seems like both the school counseling and marriage/family counseling (LPC and MFT) programs are very similar (at the school I would attend). I am interested to know if I pursued the LPC/MFT program and decided to school counseling, if it would be easy to get certified or if I would need a whole new degree.

    The other option would be to choose MSW or LPC and then either work in hospital or community center until I can gain enough experience to join a private practice. I've read so many posts and articles on the differences between the two, but I am still uncertain as to which would work best for me. I honestly had my heart set on an MSW, because if I could not go to direct counseling right away, I know there are a variety of positions available across many settings. The problem for me, I think, is that I have heard the MSW can be more general and I wonder how prepared I would be to do private counseling vs casework (referalls, resources etc). Short term I wouldn't mind this in a hospital setting or school setting, however, long term I would want those skills to become a counselor and not just a caseworker.

    I also briefly considered LSSP (license specialist in school psych) which is a masters program. I talked to a friend of a friend that was in her intern year and she warned me it was mostly testing and must less counseling. If anyone has a different prospective, I would love to hear it! :)

    Any thoughts are greatly appreciated! (Sorry this post is so long!)
     
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  3. BlackSkirtTetra

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    Besides a PhD, you can have your own practice only with the MSW/MSSW and the additional LCSW/LICSW (the names vary state-to-state) certification, unless I'm mistaken.

    You can't open your own practice with the LPC, LMFT, or any other Master's-level license besides the LCSW/LICSW, and you can't get the LCSW/LICSW without the MSW/MSSW.

    But I'm not sure if this is what you meant by "go into private practice." With both the LPC and MFT you're still able to do counseling in a private clinic or organization, but you may not do it independently.
     
  4. smores17

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    Oh, yes, very sorry to be unclear. I meant private counseling, not necessarily start my own practice, I understand that is limited to mostly the PhD population.

    I am leaning towards an MSW more than anything, other than school counseling. I just feel the school counseling degree is very limiting and if I ever wanted a change of pace, it would be quite difficult to do with that degree. I wish you could be a school counselor with an MSW. The MSW degree sounds like the best option, I just feel like I would have to let go of being a school counselor if I chose that path. I would love to hear more about this and what my options could be though!

    Thanks for responding!
     
  5. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin'
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    That is completely incorrect. It is possible that this varies based on state, but I know PLENTY of LPCs who have a private practice. When I had my PP, our office consisted of 3 LCSWs and 2 LPCs, and we were all in independent practice. We would consult with each other on complicated cases, but no one was supervised by anyone else. Also, the managed care company I worked for credentialed LPCs, LCSWs, and LMFTs all as independent practitioners.

    There may be some states where LPCs and LMFTs (and maybe even LCSWs, I don't know) do not have independent practice rights, but it is wrong to make a blanket statement about this.
     
  6. BlackSkirtTetra

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    Thank you. I've been told by many people (including a professor when I took a social work class in college) that only LCSWs and PhDs can open their own private practices, and I hadn't heard of LPCs or MFTs opening their own practice, but it seems I was at least partly wrong! This is good information to know.

    Do you happen to know if there is a table or chart (or even just a list) somewhere of each state's regulations as to who can practice in what context? It seems to vary so much, even between neighboring states.
     
  7. Sassychica

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    I'm bumping this because I am also having trouble with this. I recently got accepted into two school counseling programs. ( the only 2 I applied for) and I don't want to be pigeonholed into being a school counselor forever. I would like to run my own practice counseling people. I plan to go on to get a PHD, but just incase I don't, does anyone know if you can have a practice in NY with a school counseling degree? Or should I try to do both a mental health counseling and a school counseling masters? I'm not sure if I can do both at the same time, my school offers both degrees, but not simultaneously.
    Has anyone run into this problem?
    Did anyone get a school counseling degree and switch to mental health counseling/ sit for mhc or mft liscence?
    Or does anyone have a masters in school counseling and have a private practice?
    I would just go into mental health counseling, but I think I would have to reapply to the school although they offer both and I don't want to have to wait another year.
    Any advice would be appreciated.


    Thanks
     
  8. zensouth

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    The professors in the programs you apply to could probably answer most of these questions. I don't think that you can use a school counseling degree in a private setting. It probably depends on the licensing process in NY. Do they license school counselors separately from LPC/MFT, etc? If that is the case then the school counseling license probably doesn't work for private practice.

    In my state a regular mental health counselor (LPC) or LCSW can be a school counselor, no special degree is needed, though I think you do have to take some required state tests.
     
  9. Sassychica

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    Thank you for your input. Yes I do plan on asking but I don't start school until January. . I sent one of the advisers an email and I'm waiting for them to get back to me. I'm pretty sure I'm not the first to wonder about this so I was wondering if anyone has actually been through it or knows a little about it, and can give me some advice. I do find it confusing that every state has a different procedure. I think there needs to be one standard procedure for all states, that seems a lot easier to me on all accounts. And I'm not sure but I think NY only has psychologists, mhc and mft but not lpc's. And they are all liscenced separately. If I misunderstood can someone please clarify. Here is where I received this information. http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/mhp/

    thanks again!
     
    #8 Sassychica, Apr 18, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  10. thirddegree

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    It is my understaning that school counselors are certified not licensed. Found this out today in my admissions interview to a MHC program. I don't *think* they can practice privately. A LMHC can be in private practice in NY after graduating from a NYS approved program, 3000 supervised hours, and licensing exam. School counseling is appealing but given that you can't do private practice and school budgets being cut, I don't think the employment outlook right now is very encouraging. I know of one school in NY where you can get a degree in one and then take the additional coursework as sort of an additional certificate.
     
  11. Sassychica

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    Thanks. I thought that was the case. I may have to change my program or do a dual degree.
     
  12. Isadora

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    Not sure if anyone is following this thread at the moment, but I have some helpful information.

    Laws governing professional counseling practices vary wildly due to politics amongst the mental health professions - psychology, social work, and psychiatry. Insurance companies play a role as well. Just an FYI. CACREP is the governing body for counseling program accreditation. They have a detailed document on what they consider to be the scope of practice for counselors.

    CACREP accredits degree programs in mental health counseling, school counseling, marriage and family therapy, college counseling, vocational counseling, and substance abuse counseling. These fields came out of several movements in US history, including the moral treatment movement, vocational guidance in response to The Great Depression, World War II veterans, Alcoholics Anonymous, school counseling programs during the Cold War, Vietnam, psychotropic medication and deinstitutionalization, and the implementation of community mental health centers.

    The counseling profession identifies as one that views people through a developmental and strengths-based model. Counselors are expected to have multicultural competency and accept people without judgment of all creeds, gender identity, sexual orientation, social classes, etc. Social justice work is considered an aspect of counseling.

    Professional organizations for counseling are as follows:

    American Counseling Association
    Your state counseling association
    Your counseling association within your state

    Further, there are the specialties and the state specialty association. Your state may also have associations unaffiliated with the counseling associations but are related to other credentials. National associations have these as well, such as the psychodrama folks.

    There are a few different exams in order to receive a full license. Different states require different exams. The broadest is the National Counselor Examination. There are exams for the specialties. You may or may not need to take those.

    The state licensure board is who ultimately determines your legal scope of practice - whether or not you can practice therapy at all or with supervision, what testing you can administer, who can supervise you, etc. Your state licensure board may not even have counselors on it. Delightful, no? Check your state's health professional licensing website for documentation and applications. You will also want to check the licensure organization specific to the license you wish to get.

    Licensure gets very weird. In my state, a school counselor can obtain a license to practice therapy despite having little to no therapy training. Also, people who attend programs that aren't accredited can also obtain a license. However, this would not mean you would be able to get a job with a mental health agency, be accepted onto insurance panels, be allowed to office at a group practice, or even have people who want to pay to talk to you. Additionally, you will not be able to move to another state and be able to practice - you would need to complete a degree program within the state you moved to and there's a huge chance it would need to be accredited. Go to a CACREP accredited program.

    On school counselors - see if you can speak with a currently practicing school counselor before you apply to a school counseling program. In my state, school counselors have been reduced to schedulers and very little counseling is done. It is farmed out to bachelor level psychologists who have no licensure requirements. You may end up being the counselor for a whole school district versus one school within a district.

    The reason why many states require a teaching license for school counselors is so they can have the counselor teach classes (sometimes even on top of their counseling workload) if they need a teacher.

    Oh, and school counselor pay can be really terrible.

    If you want to switch from school counseling to mental health counseling, you will likely need to complete a new degree program unless your state is funky like mine. You may or may not be a shoe-in for a mental health counseling program. On one hand, you'd have excellent human services experience. On the other, it's a 180 on professional identity and some departments aren't OK with switches like that. See if you can talk with admissions before spending money and writing that essay to get a feel for their stance on things like that.

    There are many opportunities to council children, adolescents, and families with a mental health counseling license. Private practice, adolescent hospitalization units, and community mental health agencies all employ mental health counselors who specialize in pediatrics. Make friends with your area pediatricians, pediatric psychiatrists, and pediatric neurologists to help bring in referrals if you do private practice.

    If you have any questions, your state counseling association can be a great resource. CACREP is also very responsive if you have questions on studies and shoot them an e-mail.

    My best advice for selecting a program is seeing how closely they adhere to CACREP guidelines, if the instructors have similar therapeutic interests to you, how well students do on the licensure exam, and what sort of work you may find yourself doing after graduation. If you are interested in research, also see what research opportunities are available.

    I know there are some programs out there at prestigious schools, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. The accredited programs in my state are in run-of-the-mill state schools, but a lot of the faculty are high up in the counseling world. Clients don't particularly care whether or not you went to an Ivy League equivalent school, they really just want you to listen to them. Save yourself the debt. It takes a lot of time to start making money in therapy regardless of discipline, and you need whatever leg up you can get financially.

    That's all I can think of at the moment. I'm in a CACREP mental health counseling program, and I recently took a class that addressed licensure and professional identity. I'm also fairly close to graduating, so I've been trying to study up on state law.

    Hope that helps.
     
  13. Sassychica

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    Thank you so much for that detailed reply. I brought this thread back to life because I was accepted into a school counseling program already. I thought that with the degree I would be able to do school counseling as well as private practice, but I was wrong ( from what I know). I'm in NY and I think the rules are a little funky here. I emailed the advisor for the school but I will also email CACREP like you suggested. I think I want to switch to a mental health program but I fear that it's too late. We shall see.
    Thanks again.. So much great info!
     
  14. Vasa Lisa

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    In my CMHC program - we shared many of the same first year classes with the School Counseling students - and then they split off and completed a 48 hour program and graduated while the LPC bound students stayed in school and took additional coursework and had different internships.

    Perhaps you can compare the curriculum and start out the first semester/year as School and switch over to clinical mental health counseling?

    In my program, in the interview process - it was easier to get admitted as a school counselor (less competition) than as the clinical mental health counselor (lots more applicants - and fewer slots). So if you want to make the switch - talk to the director of both programs - school and clinical ASAP - and let them know. I am sure they will want to work with you.

    Let us know how it turns out.
     
  15. Vasa Lisa

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    Great post Isadora - lots of information. In my state, school counselors start out at a higher pay rate than LPC residents - but that could be because we have a shortage of school counselors. You are absolutely right that at the HS level there isn't a lot of time for counseling at most schools - but it is determined district by district and some schools value it more than others. At the MS and elementary level, there are schools where the school counselors spend nearly all their time in direct counseling with individuals and groups of students. Pay for that job is in the mid 50K range straight out of grad school. I have friends who took that track and they love their work - but it is WORK and very demanding and challenging.

    What type of setting were you in for your practicum? And what type of setting for your internship? Different states calls it different things - but what are you hoping to do for your licensure hours post graduation?

    I have worked in a community mental health clinic, a public college counseling center, a private college counseling center, a small agency, and am now in a small private practice working on my LPC hours. I love this work.
     
  16. Sassychica

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    Thank you Vasa Lisa. Yes I hope that my advisor gets back to me soon. My program is 60 credit hours and we are taking the same classes. So hopefully they are accommodating. I'm trying to figure out the best way to present my situation to her without sounding like im flaking on my program. I just really want to be able to have my own practice one day and don't want to be forced to do school counseling forever. If I had to choose one I would drop school counseling altogether. I know that I will enjoy being a counselor so I hope that she will understand where I am coming from.
     
  17. Malice77

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    I finally joined after lurking various forums. This is in original response to Smores. I am currently a certified school counselor in New York State, as well as a certified teacher. In New York you don't need a teaching license to be a school counselor, but these days that is a moot point. I finished my program at Hunter College whose school counseling program has just come under the wing of CACREP. These days in NYC thanks to the hiring freezes, the only thing that seems to matter is whether or not if you are bilingual. I think this may be the case for social work and other counseling jobs as well. Times are beyond tough for school counselors as mentioned here. Looking back I am not entirely sure if I would have gone with the school counseling certification again if I would have known the job market would be so bad.

    I have been looking into getting another degree to help me out and the forum has been a big help. I am also planning on relocating to California. Similar to Smores, I would like to go into private practice as well, but also help students with college and career planning as well. I would like to do a combination of college consulting as well as mental health counseling, Just not sure the best education route, I already have two masters :confused:
     
  18. Amy Post

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    I hope this thread comes alive again. I have spent countless hours over months trying to figure out what professional path is best for me. My undergrad and grad degree are in unrelated fields to the interests I am expressing here. I'm ready to try something new.

    I've done a lot of soul searching, independently and with therapists, and know that I have interests in education and counseling and psychology (but not research). Given that I already went through a rigorous grad program, a PHd is not what I'm interested in either. I am currently considering teaching, school counseling, school psychology or social work/mental health counseling programs. I know that seems like more than a spoonful...

    I am worried about enrolling in school counseling or school psychology b/c of the job market and b/c of the significant advantage to those who are bilingual (i am not bilingual). So what could would a degree in these fields be if I am unemployed? Also, I am interested in therapy and helping students overcome social/environmental problems. So perhaps the school psychology isnt the right fit for me either because this position seems to involve mostly testing and evaluating students (although i am interested in intervention and strongly believe in helping youth obtain the best education possible.)

    is there anyone on here who has been a teacher or is a teacher? How did teaching compare to your role as a school counselor or as a counselor?

    does anyone have any career recommendation for someone who is interested in education and emotional problems?
     
  19. xXIDaShizIXx

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    This. I would say social work could still be your best bet at this point OP.
     
  20. mcvcm92

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    The school psychology unemployment rate is actually quite low (1.4%) as mentioned in this article: http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/school-psychologist. Also, school psychology always seems to be in the top 25 of "Best Jobs"; it's not just a special education assessor, but a consultant, counselor and program implementor as well. I highly recommend you to go on the NASP website and learn more about the field, since it seems like it may be a fit for you based on what you wrote in your previous post!
     
  21. CounselortoMD

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    As others have suggested, I think the answers to your questions about licensure and independent practice rights will vary from state to state. The two states in my immediate vicinity offer full autonomous licensure to both M.A.s--->LPC and M.S.W.s--->LCSW.

    I have an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process of obtaining this degree. (Ultimately, I decided to attend medical school rather than pursue my LPC credential.) But despite my affection for Clinical Psychology M.A. programs, I believe the M.S.W. is generally a much more marketable (and thus wiser) degree to pursue. I will explain below.

    Compared to my fellow M.A.s, it seems that our M.S.W. cousins are universally regarded as far more desirable candidates for administrative roles--particularly among large bureaucratic systems--thus making it significantly easier for M.S.W.s to gain initial entry into the steady (and well-compensated) career tracts offered by these highly-stable entities such as government offices; non-profit agencies; public education systems; community service centers; international outreach organizations; healthcare networks; insurance companies; election campaigns, political action groups--and even traditional corporate structures.

    Therefore, because M.S.W.s are more welcomed and readily accepted into the cultural hierarchy of these important social institutions, there is a greater likelihood that they will eventually breakthrough into the executive level and achieve a rewarding management position (along with a high salary, as well). Ultimately, the M.S.W. degree will confer an unlimited capacity for continued ascent into sequentially higher ranks of leadership.
     
    #20 CounselortoMD, Oct 3, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2013
  22. NCSP

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    From my perspective the school counseling route would offer the least opportunity for broad practice or career options even if you were only interested in working in schools. I also do not see many school counselors delivering actual counseling services, they seem mostly trained to run skills groups and help with case management type services. School Psychologists seem (at least in my area) to be hired over school counselors because they can simply do so much more and are a much better bang for the buck.
     
  23. Divine_alwys

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    Great information I am so glad to have found this forum! I am currently in my last year of bachelors psychology program. I will be graduating in May 2014, so I am very excited. I am now applying to graduate school, but I have been a bit confused into what field to get into. At first I was extremely passionate about the LPC masters degree program which also has a variety of opening when it comes to field work, but after talking to the program director at my site where I am currently doing my internship for one of my classes, he told me to consider MSW degree program instead. He expressed this with so much passion that I was curious to know why. He recently graduated from his MHC class and started studying for his licensure. Mind you he had to do so many hours of internship hours and practum hours which I know is expected. He expressed how hard it is and how limited you are to certain fields. He also told me that if I was planning to move into another state I would have to take the state test again for that particular state, but with the MSW I didn't it would just be a transfer, so he seriously recommended taking MSW program. I'm just not sure what field to get into. My heart wants to work with children, but I don't have to much experience. I live in Florida, does anybody know anyone that can help me with internship or volunteer to gain experience or how I can begin to go about this?
     

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