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What’s the difference between a clinical social worker and a non-clinical social worker?

What’s the difference between a clinical social worker and a non-clinical social worker?

As a social worker, your job is to help people get the services and opportunities they need to improve their lives. Understanding the difference between clinical and non-clinical social workers can help you decide which path is right for you. 

Non-clinical social worker

As a non-clinical social worker, you will work to identify the resources and agencies that will help bridge the gap for your clients. You can work in private or public organizations as you aid individuals and groups with various physical, emotional and mental health needs. 

You focus on administrative responsibilities and counseling. This includes rehabilitation services, mediation, conflict resolution, mental health counseling, and other forms of therapy. 

Non-clinical social workers can also be called macro-level social workers. This is because, as a non-clinical social worker, you focus on effecting change for underserved groups and individuals. Many times, you will organize services for the community, work for legislative changes, and seek reforms at the governmental level. 

Jobs for non-clinical social workers

As a non-clinical social worker, you can perform an essential role in securing services and opportunities for those struggling with mental health issues, physical problems, and other needs. Here are some jobs you can have.

Principal social worker

As a principal social worker, you would integrate therapy, services and treatment for those who need it. Many individuals and families need medical, physical and emotional/mental health assistance. Your role would be as follows:

  • You perform a variety of therapies aimed at helping people deal with challenges better. 
  • You maintain documentation and notes on all cases.
  • You attend court hearings with individuals and families. 
  • You attend treatment planning meetings for families and individuals. 
  • You develop and coordinate clinical care and programs. 

Wellness Coordinator

A wellness coordinator is a new career in which many non-clinical social workers locate and provide services from home. You would work closely with insurance companies to ensure that treatments are covered for patients. You would be responsible for the following duties:

  • You would help with complex situations that require ongoing medical care. 
  • You would help people locate community services to assist with emotional, physical and mental health needs. 
  • You would document the recommendations in the individual’s notes for future reference. 

Becoming a clinical social worker

Most clinical social work requires a Master of Social Work to give you advanced standing in your field. Choosing a Master of Social Work degree is the gateway to becoming a clinical social worker and expanding your expertise in this field.  

Admissions requirements

The primary admissions requirement is that you hold a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CWSE-accredited institution. In addition, you should complete the following: 

  • You submit a statement of purpose.
  • You offer a resume.
  • You do not need to take the GRE test to apply. 

This master’s degree aims to help working professional attain the next level in their career. 

What to expect in the Master of Social Work program

A master’s program focuses on clinical work that prepares students to achieve a license for social work. It is entirely online and part-time, so you can continue to work while you earn an advanced degree. 

The courses last 16 weeks, with shorter summer course lengths. Over the entire program, you will have two courses per semester for 39 credits. 

Once you complete the Master of Social Work, you will have enough placements in social work field settings to qualify you to take the licensure exam. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates that the need for licensed social workers will continue to increase steadily over the next ten years. 

Jobs for Master of Social Work graduates

While every social worker can offer guidance in difficult circumstances and direct clients to resources to help with problems, you need a Master of Social Work to work in mental health and rehabilitation clinics. The license that accompanies a master’s degree allows you to prescribe counseling and other treatments. 

Many graduates work in specialized fields. With an accompanying NASW credential, you can work in several areas to effect change and offer opportunities for underserved groups:

  • Youth and family services
  • Palliative care
  • Hospice care
  • Case management
  • Gerontology

Child and family social work

In your role as a child and family social worker, you are responsible for improving the circumstances of a child’s life. This frequently involves helping the entire family. You can work for the school system, government agencies, and private practices performing the following duties:

  • You provide guidance and resources to young people with mental health issues. 
  • You help locate resources for young people who have disabilities. 
  • You help young people who live with abuse at home or elsewhere.
  • You assist young people who live in a family where the parent has significant health problems, excessive debt or drug addictions.

Medical social worker

As a healthcare social worker, you would be in the hospital or another medical setting to support families and patients. While you could not make medical decisions, you would be a crucial bridge between the medical professionals and the patient by doing the following:

  • You would help patients, and their families navigate the complicated medical system.
  • You would monitor and assess the physical and mental health of the patient and family during the treatment process.
  • You would assist with short-term therapy for them.
  • You would communicate the needs of the patient to the medical team. 

Substance abuse counselor

Substance abuse affects every member of a family. There can be severe setbacks and relapses, causing the entire family to struggle. As a substance abuse counselor, your job would be to perform the following duties:

  • You would help clients through a prescribed recovery plan. 
  • You would refer them to other services that can help with recovery. 
  • You would work with medical professionals such as psychiatrists and therapists to help a client overcome substance abuse. 
  • You would address challenges that affect their mental health. 

Mental health social worker

Unfortunately, many people experience trauma and struggle to adapt and learn to live with the effects. You could work in a private practice or a hospital setting to see clients individually or in groups, helping them learn to cope with the impact of trauma. As a mental health social worker, you would perform the following duties:

  • You would help them adhere to the prescribed medical and mental health plan.
  • You would help them address the challenges of poverty by locating services that assist. 
  • You would help them with services to address the mental health challenges they face from trauma.
  • You would collaborate with other medical professionals to outline a treatment plan.
  • You would meet with family members to help them learn how they can assist someone struggling with trauma and mental health. 

Gerontology social work

Older adults can face challenges that can cause them to deteriorate. Many older people have no family help with illness, financial stress, and other problems that can characterize those who are aging. In gerontology social work, you would be responsible for the following:

  • You would locate and connect older adults with community services that help them live better lives. 
  • You would help them fill out paperwork to get the needed services and assistance.
  • You would refer them to medical professionals when necessary. 
  • You would provide therapy to seniors who struggle with depression and anxiety. 
  • You would arrange medical care for them when they are discharged from the hospital.

Military and veterans social work

Life can be challenging for many people who served in the military and veterans. As a military and veterans social worker, you have an essential job of helping them cope with issues such as PTSD and other effects of serving in dangerous places. You would perform the following duties to help them:

  • You would allow them to apply for the benefits they have from the government. 
  • You would assist them in getting the mental health and medical help they need. 
  • You would help them gain financial aid for school. 
  • You would be part of their crisis intervention team that deals with substance abuse, domestic violence, suicidal thoughts, and common tendencies in military personnel and veterans. 

The importance of social workers in society

Social workers are a critical part of the fabric of our country. They are often the first people to stand up for those who are less fortunate or need help they cannot afford. Poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, and many other problems can feel insurmountable. 

Whether you want to work in a medical facility or at the governmental level, training in social work can effect actual change by assisting those who struggle to help themselves and their families. 

As an MSW student, you can expect the following:

  • A flexible schedule.
  • Asynchronous classes.
  • A student success coach.
  • Trained and supportive faculty.

When you want to expand your reach to help people live better lives, the Master of Social Work will position you to effect change. Whether you like helping people directly through connections to services they need or prefer the opportunity to change policies at the governmental level, an MSW is your best choice.  

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