What is an LCSW?
An LCSW’s day can start off with a staff meeting, followed by meetings with clients in an office, a client’s home, hospital, government assistance office, private practice, in-patient rehab or jail facility. LCSWs help their clients deal with problems such as homelessness or drug addiction and are involved in assessing, diagnosing, and treating individuals suffering from serious emotional, mental, or life issues. All in a day, these social workers will provide emotional support, guidance, and access to whatever resources are necessary in order to improve or solve a client’s problem.
A few types of issues that an LCSW may help their clients address include depression, anxiety, trauma, low self-esteem, marital troubles, racial discrimination, self-harming behaviors, loss of loved one, eating disorders, or adjusting to significant life transitions.
The soft skills necessary for social workers across all specializations, including LCSW, include empathy, caring, patience and compassion. A genuine interest in people and a positive attitude must permeate the completion of all job duties. Most importantly, though, is compassionate and ethical service that is the cornerstone of social work. For LCSWs, empowering clients and providing hope is a daily responsibility— one that can be challenging but ultimately very rewarding.
Experienced LCSWs may also take on a mentorship or supervisory role of junior social workers. LCSWs from all levels of seniority learn from and support each other. Personal development and self-care is crucial in jobs as fast-paced and demanding as clinical social work. Sufficient sleep, a balanced diet, and a healthy emotional state are all things that can easily fall by the wayside when faced with seemingly insurmountable client challenges. Maintaining a network helps LCSWs keep a clear view of their daily responsibilities and contributes to personal growth.
To stay aware of changes affecting their professional work as well as sharpen their soft skills, LCSWs will spend time attending seminars, conferences and workshops hosted by national and local organizations. Ultimately, social workers act as a bridge between researchers, practitioners and other fields and disciplines to solve critical social issues.
Who do LCSWs Work With?
LCSWs can work with individuals of different ages and varying backgrounds and needs. They can serve immigrants, those living with disabilities, individuals identifying as LGBTQ, juvenile delinquents, recovering drug addicts, victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence, among others.
The diverse population that makes America so unique is also what makes working as an LCSW both challenging and rewarding. To provide effective and sensitive social work services, LCSWs must understand the value of cultural competence.
The National Association of Social Workers defines cultural competence as, “the process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, spiritual traditions, immigration status, and other diversity factors in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each.”
Cultural competence requires LCSWs to embrace the differences and similarities of each client and “remain open-minded and willing to learn new things about human beings,” says Marian L. Swindell, PhD., a social work practitioner and educator.
Striving towards cultural competence requires a certain level of compassion. Only those who make an effort to view each individual as unique and special can exhibit compassion and cultural competence.
Clinical social workers are required to have a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW). Graduate courses will cover topics such as diversity, social justice, social welfare history and policy, as well as data management, analysis, and interpretation. Upon graduation, to obtain licensure from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) graduates must take and pass an exam consisting of 170 questions over a four-hour period. However state requirements for supervised work experience hours necessary to obtain licensure will vary.
Job Outlook & Salary
The job outlook for social work is expected to grow faster than average, at a rate of 16 percent from 2016 through 2026, according to BLS. Salaries can range from $29,560 to $79,740, varying significantly based on numerous factors, as noted by the BLS.
With so many social issues sweeping our nation today, a career as an LCSW will provide more than a paycheck; the privilege of making a difference on the lives of future generations is a reward greater than financial compensation. Regardless of specialization, social workers are united in their desire to give hope and empowerment to the vulnerable and disadvantaged— one client at a time.