Why Clinical Social Work?
Clinical social work is a disciplined process in which practitioners help clients cope with mental health, substance use, trauma, and relational and interpersonal challenges while connecting them to the services they need to achieve a higher quality of life. Clinical social work master’s programs prepare students to pursue licensure as professional clinicians who work directly with individuals, families, groups, and communities.
What Do Clinical Social Workers Do?
Clinical social workers are the only type of social work professionals with the advanced knowledge and specialized skills to assess, diagnose, and treat psychosocial difficulties and mental illness while also providing general counseling and various kinds of support. These dedicated clinicians work both independently and in collaboration with others to help people overcome mental health concerns resulting from or related to addiction, violence, trauma, medical illness, and other life stressors.
In addition to working directly with clients, clinical social workers perform the essential function of advocating for their clients’ needs. Clinical social workers interact with many constituents within a community, such as providers, insurance companies, schools, and social service agencies. Through those interactions, they develop insight into trends that are affecting client populations and should be brought to the attention of policymakers.
Where Do Clinical Social Workers Practice?
Clinical social workers are the largest group of mental health providers in the United States, offering services in a variety of settings:
- Substance abuse treatment centers
- College counseling centers
- Day treatment programs
- Mental health clinics
- Outpatient facilities
- Psychiatric hospitals
- Private practice
- Court clinics
- Prisons and jails
- Legislative advocacy divisions of institutions
A clinical social worker’s typical work day will vary based on professional setting, but it is likely to include the following tasks:
- Diagnosing mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders
- Consulting and coordinating care with other professionals to develop treatment plans
- Holding group sessions with families and couples
- Lobbying for policy changes that will benefit the community
In medical settings such as hospitals, clinical social workers help patients understand the emotional effects of their condition while providing guidance about medication effects and key life decisions. In educational settings, clinical social workers help pre-K through college students address personal challenges, interpersonal concerns, and substance use disorders that may be affecting their academic achievement.
What’s Unique About Clinical Social Work Programs?
The requirements to practice as a clinical social worker vary from state to state, but a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is often required. A master’s degree in clinical social work provides both the foundational knowledge and hands-on training required to pursue professional licensure such as the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
At the master’s level, the clinical social work curriculum draws on theories of human development, cultural learning, relational and group process, and social policy in the service of individuals, groups, families, and communities. Students in clinical MSW programs explore a wide range of theories so they can address their clients’ needs while considering gender, sexual orientation, cultural background, and other factors that could affect treatment. Upon graduation, students should be able to effectively use clinical skills such as assessment and diagnosis, active listening, critical thinking, complex problem-solving, and negotiation.
Simmons College’s Online Clinically Focused MSW
When you earn your MSW through Simmons School of Social Work’s clinically focused program, you join an inclusive community of activist practitioners who are dedicated to merging social justice and professional ethics with advanced clinical practice skills. You will learn a range of evidence-based methods as you take online classes, complete coursework, and interact with real clients during in-person field experiences near your community.
SocialWork@Simmons’ online MSW program offers five start dates per year, and our admissions committee reviews applications on a rolling basis. To help accommodate your schedule, we offer three program tracks: traditional full-time, accelerated, and extended.