Main Menu

What Is A Clinical Social Worker?

Clinical Social Workers are licensed/certified mental health professional who can help you find solutions to your emotional problems-from daily crises to life’s most difficult situations. They accomplish this through a unique combination of problem-solving assistance and psychotherapy, then help you understand the problems causing your emotional distress, develop and implement methods to resolve the issues and, when necessary, connect you with community resources that offer practical assistance and support.

Clinical Social Workers are the largest group of professionally trained mental health providers rendering over 65 percent of counseling and psychotherapy services. With over half a century of experience providing expert counseling and psychotherapy for individuals, families, couples and groups, Clinical Social Workers have the skills to help you make positive changes in your life.

Clinical Social Workers in private practice, Psychologist, and Psychiatrists are all mental health professionals trained to help with emotional problems. Psychiatrists can also dispense medications, whereas Psychologists administer psychological testing. Clinical Social Workers are unique in their holistic client’s relationship to his or her environment, often with extensive knowledge in medication and psychological testing.

For most people seeking help, the answer is Clinical Social Work: the 130,000 licensed Clinical Social Workers are the majority providers of mental health care in the United States. Advanced Clinical Social Workers are among the best-educated, best-trained, most-experienced practitioners available. Theirs is a discipline with its own body of knowledge and a distinctive approach to psychotherapy and counseling. They draw on social work’s humanitarian values, focusing on enhancing your coping skills in your environment and working with you in the light of your special circumstances, including ethnic and cultural factors, workplace issues, and family or other relationships. Among Clinical Social Workers, about 15,000 hold national voluntary advanced credential of Board Certified Diplomate (BCD) from the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABE).

Advanced Clinical Social Workers are graduate-school educated and have years of experience in assessing, diagnosing, and treating bio-psychosocial problems. Nearly 90% of Board Certified Diplomates (BCD) have ten years or more of clinical experience. By education and training, most BCD’S are goal-oriented therapists who understand problems from many perspectives.

All states have laws that regulate the practice of social work in order to protect the public. New Jersey has laws that also regulate Clinical Social Work. These regulatory programs involve licensure, certification, or registration. ABE, an independent certifying organization, offers the Board Certified Diplomate (BCD), a voluntary national credential by which advanced Clinical Social Workers may be recognized for their adherence to high professional standards.

ABE confers the BCD upon Clinical Social Workers who meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • a master’s degree with a clinical concentration from a program accredited by Council on Social Work Education;
  • a minimum of 7,500 hours of direct clinical practice (including 3,000 hours under supervision) in not less the five years;
  • (since 1989) passage of ABE’s clinical examination; and licensure/certification/registration held at the highest level available in the state(s) where they practice.

Clinical Social Work shares with all social work practice the goal of enhancement and maintenance of psychosocial functioning of individuals, families, and small groups. Clinical Social Work practice is the professional application of social work theory and methods to the treatment and prevention of psychosocial dysfunction, disability, or impairment, including emotional and mental disorders. It is based on knowledge of one or more theories of human development within psychosocial context.

The perspective of person-in-environment is central to Clinical Social Work practice. Clinical Social Work includes interventions directed to interpersonal interactions, intrapsychic dynamics, and life support and management issues. Clinical Social Work services consist of assessment; diagnoses; treatment, including psychotherapy and counseling; client-centered advocacy; consultation; and evaluation. The process of Clinical Social Work is undertaken within the objectives of social work and the principles and values contained in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Code of Ethics.

Preamble: Code of Ethics of National Association of Social Workers

The primary mission of the Social Work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.

Social Workers promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients. “Clients” is used inclusively to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities. Social Workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. These activities may be in the form of direct practice, community organizing, supervision, consultation, administration, advocacy, social and political action, policy development and implementation, education, research and evaluation. Social Workers seek to enhance the capacity of people to address their own needs. Social Workers also seek to promote the responsiveness of organizations, communities, and other social institutions to individuals’ needs and social problems.

The mission of the Social Work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These core values, embraced by social workers throughout the profession’s history, are the foundation of social work’s unique purpose and perspective:

  • service
  • social justice
  • dignity and worth of the person
  • importance of human relationships
  • integrity
  • competence

This constellation of core values reflects what is unique to the social work profession. Core values, and the principles that flow from them, must be balanced within the context and complexity of the human experience.


The above information compiled from literature provided by the National Association of Social Workers and the American Board of Examiners of Clinical Social Workers.

  © Copyright 2010, David P. Osterhout - All Rights Reserved
  Website design and hosting by South Jersey Websites