Is a Social Worker the Mental Health Professional for You?

It can be difficult to choose the mental health professional that fits your needs. The media often portrays psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and social workers interchangeably, even though there are significant differences in the training these professionals receive, and the services they offer. April’s weekly blogs will focus on helping you to understand the differences between these professionals so that you can make an educated decision about which services you’d like to pursue. This week: Clinical Social Workers.

Degree, Education & Training:

Licensed Clinical Social Workers typically attend graduate school for two to three years, and then complete two years of clinical work experience under supervision before they can become licensed, similar to a Licensed Professional Counselor. While counseling is a part of their training, social workers also have specialized training in coordinating care for individuals who are facing challenges in their social environment, such as the loss of a job, transportation difficulties, trouble accessing medical care or difficulty connecting with financial resources.


Many social workers serve as case managers or work in team environments with other mental health and medical professionals to coordinate care, such as hospital discharge planning teams or human services departments. Those working in team environments do not necessarily require a license. Social workers with more advanced training and experience in counseling may choose to practice independently, and must be licensed by the state. Those offering counseling services are likely to specialize with specific populations or problems.

When Should You Visit a Social Worker?

If you are pursuing counseling services from a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, it may be because you are struggling to manage a problem that stems from transitional or temporary issues in your social environment, such as job changes, income changes or medical issues. For example, if you lost your job and accepted a new job with less pay or fewer benefits, and you are seeking to be connected with resources that will help you compensate for the changes, while also developing coping skills around your new situation, then a social worker may be a good fit.


Stay tuned for a new mental health blog topic next month!

About Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker

Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker is an adoptee, adoptive parent, and psychologist who provides mental health support focused on adoption, trauma, and racial identity work. She is the author of the "Adoptees Like Me" book series.