You may be curious about the differences between an LCSW vs. a psychologist, especially as you evaluate the best option for your career in the mental health field. While both roles give practitioners the opportunity to diagnose and treat a variety of mental illnesses, there are significant differences in the scopes of practice for each.
An LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) is a social worker who has:
- Graduated from a Master of Social Work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), such as the online option from The Catholic University of America
- Passed the Licensed Graduate Social Work exam
- Fulfilled any additional requirements within their state, such as post-graduate supervised clinical hours (number of hours varies by state)
- Passed the Licensed Clinical Social Work exam
After receiving a clinical social work license, an LCSW can practice independently, diagnose, and provide therapy in multiple fields, such as child welfare, healthcare, military support, and substance abuse treatment, and private practice. While they often provide mental health services, they may also specialize in crisis intervention, holistic treatment, and community resource networking.
A psychologist has, in most cases:
- Completed a doctoral degree in psychology. Many states call for a degree accredited by the American Psychological Association.
- Passed the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology
- Fulfilled post-doctoral supervised clinical hours (2,000 hours in many states)
A licensed psychologist can practice independently to diagnose and treat mental illness. Psychologists may specialize in research or therapeutic services, with a focus on bringing patients to a state of mental well-being. Psychologists treat a wide range of individuals across many populations.
The Main Differences between an LCSW and a Psychologist
Several of the educational and clinical requirements for the two roles are similar, but there are a few significant differences. Most psychologists must obtain a doctorate degree to become licensed, so they spend several more years in school than LCSWs. In the professional realm, LCSWs, like psychologists, address mental illness and provide therapy services. However, their duties may be far more diverse and often focus on advocacy and social justice for oppressed populations.
One other important factor to consider is the availability of education options for each career path. Since accreditation is important for licensure eligibility, it’s crucial to find a degree program that is accredited by the CSWE (for social work) or the APA (for psychology). Currently, the APA does not accredit any online-only doctoral degrees. LCSW candidates, however, are fortunate to have fully online options available for pursuit of an MSW degree, like the part-time asynchronous program from The Catholic University of America.
So, if online education is the best fit with your professional and personal obligations, an MSW degree may be the best option for you. Additionally, if you are eager to answer the call to social justice and empowerment of all individuals and communities, consider pursuing your MSW at The Catholic University of America. You can request information or call 855-295-5711 to speak with an admissions representative.