Counselors and social workers indeed have many similarities. They are both trained to provide mental health services to people and the community. But, were you aware that licensed professional counselors and licensed clinical social workers have some key differences? Counselors and social workers train differently, for example. Therefore, their scope of responsibility is different. Both counselors and social workers often work together on integrated, interdisciplinary teams to ensure the best for their clients.
Licensed professional counselor (LPC)
The American Counseling Association defines the term counselor this way:
“Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.”
- Required degree: Master’s in Counseling
- Clinical requirements: 700 as part of a master’s program + post-graduate internships as mandated by each state
- Common workplaces: Hospitals, mental health clinics, residential care facilities, schools, and private practice
A career in counseling focuses on helping clients with specific issues, such as mental health diagnoses, substance abuse, or behavioral issues. They also can specialize in different types of counseling, including substance abuse or marriage and family counseling.
While some counselors work in private practice, many also work in hospitals and schools, while usually working alongside psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. The bulk of educational preparation as a counselor involves advanced counseling theory and techniques.
Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
The National Association of Social Workers defines social work like this:
“Clinical social work is a specialty practice area of social work which focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness, emotional, and other behavioral disturbances.”
- Required degree: Master’s in Social Work
- Clinical requirements: 900 as part of a master’s program + post-graduate internships as mandated by each state
- Common workplaces: Hospitals, clinics, community centers, social welfare agencies, schools, and private practice
While clinical social workers can perform counseling services, it is only one component of their duties. Social workers assist their clients with finding and accessing resources that promote a client’s quality of life and may be involved in the legislative process dictating these services. Social worker training usually includes counseling techniques and training in-laws, best practices, and finding resources for clients.
Is counseling or social work right for you?
When choosing a career path, it is important to know what you are looking for in a career, as well as the education path. Do you want to focus on counseling or be able to have other duties besides just therapy? How fast do you want to complete your degree? What setting do you want to work in?
Having a hard time deciding?
Shadow a counselor or clinical social worker for a day. Being able to see what a typical day in the field is like is a wonderful way to decide what the best fit may be.