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Is There a Difference Between an MFT and an LCSW?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Both Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) are empowered by the location in which they practice to conduct private therapy. An MFT and an LCSW must complete a set number of hours of supervised work before being licensed. Additionally, both an MFT and an LCSW have a master's degree. A Marriage and Family Therapist, also sometimes called a Marriage, Child and Family Counselor (MFCC), has received a master's degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field, but with an emphasis on private counseling. An LCSW receives a master's degree in social work, called an MSW.

The way in which hours of practice prior to taking examinations are decided also varies. An MFT candidate must perform a specific number of practice hours split among several different types of experience. For example, some hours must be phone counseling, individual counseling, group therapy, and family therapy.

The licensed clinical social worker also must perform a number of supervised hours but often has more options, and more means for making money while completing supervised hours. Although exact rules may vary depending on the location in which a student is studying, these hours do not necessarily have to be split between different types of counseling. In some cases, hours can be completed performing social work, administering a senior home, helping to run a foster care program, or working at an adoption agency.

This would suggest the social worker has less training to be a good therapist, but this is not the case. A social worker who plans to privately practice therapy will generally choose work opportunities that allow them to gain this type of experience. As well, MSW programs vary significantly in orientation. Some are specifically geared toward people who wish to get an LCSW to be a therapist.

Many Marriage and Family Therapists find their certification leaves them with fewer job possibilities than those for clinical social workers. For example, a social worker cannot be a Marriage and Family Therapist in most cases, but must be an LCSW. Some hospitals will only hire a licensed social worker, and some government run medical centers cannot legally hire a Marriage and Family Therapist to perform social work.

The thought behind this is that the social worker has more training in considering all aspects of a patient's life, like living conditions and income. The social worker may also have specific training in negotiating requests for government assistance. Many an MFT can also perform these functions with ease, but the Marriage and Family Therapist is more therapy-based in training, and may not be aware of all government programs.

In terms of seeing an MFT or LCSW for therapy, some people note differences. Some social workers tend to be more action-oriented in their counseling and may give their opinions more readily. In most cases, it comes down to comfort level with a counselor rather than degree or license. Many people find themselves just as happy with either type of counselor, as long as that counselor is skilled. Some might prefer a Marriage and Family Therapist to a social worker, not so much because of training, but because the person seems a better fit with the client's personality or ideas of what functions counseling should perform.

Persons in these fields are not allowed to prescribe medications. This is solely the province of medical doctors and occasionally of nurse practitioners. Both the MFT and LCSW are familiar with the potential effects of most psychiatric medications, however. Thus, people in both fields can assist clients with a new diagnosis of a psychiatric condition, and recognize possible warning signs that a medication may not be working. With the permission of the patient, they can also maintain contact with a prescribing doctor.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon994251 — On Jan 26, 2016

@Post 54 - There are COAMFTE-accredited online programs for the MFT masters degree. Capella University has a MFT masters that is accredited by both COAMFTE as well as CACREP. North Central University has a completely online MFT masters program that is accredited by COAMFTE. It kills me how people make statements with zero truth with such authority.

By anon992380 — On Sep 03, 2015

I'm posting in response to LCSW vs MFT. I have worked in same mental health clinic as the only LCSW for over 23 years. I have demonstrated respect to the MFT. However, I find my empathy for my fellow clinicians quickly eroding due to the passive-aggressive comments, behaviors and direct comments like, the "LCSW does not do therapy and I should be handing out bus tokens instead"(direct quote).

Although I am pleased with my professional path, I am hugely disappointed with the MFT's disrespect and urge any LCSW clinician to work in clinics that encourage collaboration or at least among other LCSWs. I really doubt this will be posted.

By anon349518 — On Sep 26, 2013

I have an MFT. I'm currently working on my last year for the MSW so I can become an LCSW. If had the best of both worlds, then LCSW is the way to go. I did work in a social services agency with the MFT (in the CPS unit), but you will not be doing any clinical work without the LCSW. I could work with children and families, but not clinical stuff.

By anon342651 — On Jul 22, 2013

I am an LMFT and I regret getting that license. Since I’ve been looking for a job, I’ve seen maybe one job for an LMFT for every 15 jobs for an LCSW.

I am in California and an LCSW can bill Medicare, but LMFTs can't. The LCSW license is national, whereas an LMFT licensed can only practice in the state where they got their license. Virginia only hires about 50 LMFTs and hundreds of LCSWs. When you read the job descriptions, they can be done by both an LMFT and an LCSW.

I did not want to get am LCSW because I thought I was more into therapy, but considering that I have such limited opportunities, I will only get to practice by providing therapy in a private practice.

If you are a business-oriented person and have what it takes to run a private practice, get your MFT license. But if you want job security, higher pay and more opportunities, get the LCSW. If it worries you that you might not have enough therapy experience, do a more therapy-oriented internship or take additional classes online. Also, an LCSW can supervise both LMFTs and LCSWs, while LMFTs can only supervise other LMFTs. If the word social work does not sound as glamorous, it only seems like that. In social service agencies, you would be doing the same work.

By anon341579 — On Jul 13, 2013

I feel I must post this because, well, I feel everybody's opinion is important.

I am an LMFT-A in Texas and have worked with both awesome and awful LMFT's and social workers. To say, all (insert license) is like (insert sweeping opinion) lacks intellectual merit. However, during my internship at a psychiatric hospital, my supervisor (an LCSW) asked me to sit in on an interview with a social worker who was wanting to complete their internship at the same hospital, to give this person a perspective on what it was like to be an intern there. This person was given the opportunity to ask me any questions, and the first one was, "So, exactly how much counseling do I need to know?" I was confused, since I was in a clinical position. Then they followed up with, "Like, how much do I really need to know in the DSM? Because I mostly did administrative work in school." I honestly was blown away, upset and confused, simply because I know very well trained clinicians who would have jumped at the position to have that internship, but because this person was a social worker, they were given preference.

I agree with the statements that there are more jobs available and its scope is more widely accepted, but I just don't know why. Simply because they can google social services? They put up the "Well, we take into consideration the social system the person lives in" argument. However, that is the basis of systems theory which is widely taught in LMFT and LPC programs. To me, social workers are like McDonald's. Hey, at McDonald's, you can get a burger, a salad, ribs and even a latte now. However, is it the best you will have? Probably not. Social workers claim they can do "everything" but really, how well do they specialize in anything? I respect LCSW's due to their necessity for clinical hours for that license. For an LMSW, you could go to a facility for eight hours and stay in the restroom all day, but you would still be able to count those hours towards graduation. This results in a huge world of therapy/counseling job openings you were never trained for, yet are stealing from LMFTs and LPCs.

I know it sounds like I have a grudge towards social workers. But I just I feel LPCs and LMFTs deserve the same rights, privileges and careers as social workers. Even if you look beyond the training, the social worker lobbyists have done wonders for the license. I just hope we, as LMFTs, are able to unify like they have and make the same progress they have.

I had a friend who graduated from an LMSW program and she was blown away by the amount of training, supervision and clinical hours I needed to graduate with. She said, "Well, I kind of felt this program was easy." It's this attitude which is flooding us with people mediocre with everything, specializing in nothing. My opinion is biased, I know. Take it or leave it.

By anon337644 — On Jun 07, 2013

I find it interesting that the LMFTs on this post are acting superior to LCSWs when their scope of practice is much more limited than an LCSW. Here in Michigan, the practice act of LMFTs states that they are involved in the:

“providing of guidance, testing, discussions, therapy, instruction, or advice that is intended to avoid, eliminate, relieve, manage, or resolve marital or family conflict or discord, to create, improve, or restore marital or family harmony, or to prepare couples for marriage.”

To me, that sounds like they are only permitted to intervene when a patient is having issues revolving around their involvement in a marriage or family (well, I guess that is what their profession is called: marriage and family therapy). This scope of practice seems to clearly leave out the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of people with mental disorders and addictions (unless they are experiencing problems in the context of the relationship of marriage or in the family, but not direct psychotherapy to treat a mental disorder or addiction).

I am an LMSW-C (Licensed Master Social Worker-Clinical). This is a weird Michigan license, but is directly comparable to other states' LCSW and is considered by CMS (Medicare and Medicaid) to be an LIP (Licensed Independent Practitioner). LMFTs are not considered LIPs and must practice "in incident to" (under the supervision of) an LIP (MD, DO, NP, PsyD, PhD, LCSW) when providing a service outside of their scope of practice.

I guess I am biased, but the LMSW-C is just more flexible, broad and encompassing. The state of Michigan states that the practice of clinical social work includes:

"the application of specialized clinical knowledge and advanced clinical skills in the areas of assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, conditions, and addictions. Treatment methods include the provision of advanced social work case management and casework and individual, couple, family, or group counseling and psychotherapy whether in private practice or other settings."

So again, I may be biased, but it looks like (in Michigan at least) an LMSW-C (LCSW) can pretty much function as an LMFT (since we are allowed to do couple and family counseling) but additionally can assess, diagnose and treat individuals for mental disorders and addictions as well as provide case management.

Get the LCSW. It is the only way to go!

By anon337640 — On Jun 07, 2013

@ Post 61: To be clear, if you do not have a degree and are licensed as a social worker, you did not "work as a social worker for an agency..." You may have worked as a "social services worker" or a "social services counselor," but the profession of social work is a title protected in all fifty states, DC and Puerto Rico to include only people who have a degree in social work and are properly licensed.

I think the confusion with a lot of the posts in this forum is that non-social workers are confusing a BSW (Bachelor of Social Work)/MSW (Master of Social Work) professional with an LCSW. An LCSW is by definition an MSW with advanced clinical experience and supervision in "clinical social work," which is therapeutic intervention. Most states define this experience as direct face-to-face client therapy and limit the amount of case management or other social work interventions that can count towards this experience.

I think a helpful exercise if you are considering the two careers is to look at the practice act covering the two jobs in your state and look specifically at the scope of practice. The main reason that LCSWs are able to bill Medicare is that LCSWs in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico have the explicit scope of diagnosing and assessing mental disorders in individuals and independently developing a plan of care. Several states allow MFTs and LPCs to do this function, but many do not.

By anon333627 — On May 06, 2013

MFT's are becoming more and more in demand. In fact, the U.S. military must hire so many MFT's now and were admonished by Congress for not having more MFT's.

Now if you do not want to solely do therapy, then am MFT is not the right track for you. For me, I only want to do therapy so it is great.

If you want to do more case management or a variety of other jobs, then an LCSW is a better track. MFT's can now get on insurance panels so that should not be a worry. I think some of these posts are old so readers beware of the info. Hope this helps perspective LCSW and MFT's.

By anon332074 — On Apr 26, 2013

I'm a MFT. At the end of the day, I agree with most of the other posts that LCSW's have more job opportunities. There are social work jobs I'm qualified to do, but they are only open to LCSW's.

I have worked as a social worker for an agency that provides services to the developmentally disabled population for over seven years. I learned all about community resources within a month of taking the job. From my experience, MFT's do just as good of a job, sometimes even better in the soical service sector. Many LCSW's are way too caught up on how their training is superior. Personally, I think many of them are intimidated by MFT's, and upset that they have competition. Why else would they put so much energy into bashing MFT's?

By anon327795 — On Mar 30, 2013

I have an LCSW, and have worked with many MFTs in the mental health field -and without exception they have all expressed that they wished that they had completed the MSW/LCSW track. 1) Because there are far more opportunities available for LCSWs, MFTs cannot bill for MediCare at this time. 2)There are some clear limitations for MFTs in the public sector/community mental health because of their training.

It may be that MFTs will end up at some point be able to bill Medicare, but so far their efforts have not been successful. As such, this results in cash strapped community mental health and county agencies. They prefer LCSWs, making it clear that only LCSWs are eligible to apply. Additionally, corrections in California only hire LCSWs and psychologists; MFTs need not apply. While the VA does hire MFTs, the opportunities are limited - preference is given to LCSWs.

The limitations that MFTs have in relation to their training is that they are primarily trained to work in the private practice arena. They do not have the training to work with the severely mentally ill population in the public/community mental health sector. While there are very good MFTs who do this work, they have learned everything on the job, and still do not have the systems perspective of person in environment, which is required for doing effective community based clinical work.

Additionally, it is only recently that MFT credentialed schools are beginning to take diversity in into account. Many MFTs who move into the public sector, are, for the first time, not only experiencing the reality of a multi-cultural world with respect to their clients, but also their peers. Unfortunately, they end up taking a few trips to the personnel office before they understand diversity. However, this is changing for the better.

If you wish to do private practice, go for an MFT, but remember that private practice is difficult, and you'll have a very difficult time transitioning to the public sector. If you get an LCSW, you'll get the training to work primarily in the public sector, but if you want to do private practice, you can always take a few additional classes that'll get you the relevant skills.

All in all, the LCSW is really the way to go.

By anon326425 — On Mar 21, 2013

I am an LCSW and want to take a quick moment to dispel the rumor that MSW programs do not offer as much training in psychological theory. My MSW program contained a total of 18 classes, two of which were on macro/policy practice. The remaining 16 classes were on evidence-based practice, adult psychopathology, evaluation of clinical practice, psychological theory, etc. I even had to pick a theory to specialize in. I chose the behavioral concentration, but also took classes in psychodynamic, systems and cognitive theories.

Also, I never had to learn about linking people with resources. Social workers are encouraged to work on a macro level when necessary (e.g., helping someone get access to food vs. helping them cope with being hungry), but I would hope any mental health professional would do this as well. (Maslow, anyone?)

The LCSW exam is difficult and includes development theories, assessment and diagnosis, treatment planning, psychopharmacology and more.

In short, LCSW's are psychotherapists qualified and licensed to practice psychotherapy independently and to diagnose and treat mental illness. Remember that in any profession, school programs and practitioner knowledge/skill will always have a wide range of variation.

By anon279406 — On Jul 12, 2012

I think out of all these posts, the one with the most misleading information is no. 28. Many social work programs country offer all three degrees: BSW, MSW and doctorate. So to say no social work program offers a doctorate program is wrong, and to say it's because they just don't have the education or training to do it is just sad. These kinds of words written in a public forum are toxic. There are people reading this blog as part of a process to help them decide what direction to take in their training, and it's sad that anyone (especially a therapist from any school of thought) would say such things.

So here's what I will say for those of you who wish to begin study and training in the field of mental health: good luck and do your research. It has a lot to do with where you live or want to live, research the area to see if there is a need for the type of work you want to do (for example, Seattle probably has too many private therapists and it's very difficult to join any of the insurance panels). Also, think about whether you want to run your own business (private practice can be very isolating and demanding), or whether you want to work with a team in an agency (but you're locked into their schedule, high caseload demands, and often very limited vacation time and pay).

Either way, the mental health field is tough, and I don't think very many people are making much money. But that's not the real reason to go into it. It's important to think about where your heart is leading you, and be satisfied with the idea that just making a simple living will be enough for you (but great if you do better). I chose social work because it offered extensive clinical training and many job opportunities in various fields. Most of my graduate course work at UT Arlington was focused on clinical theory and practice (because I chose the clinical track). Much of my resource related training has been on the job, and always evolving depending on what type of work and demographic was involved. I've done a lot of counseling and teaching in every "social work" job I've had.

After almost 20 years in the social work field working for agencies, I finally feel ready to begin looking at private practice because I finally feel like I have something to offer (experience in both life and profession, training in working with all age groups and many types of problems). I am always concerned when I see very young, inexperienced therapists in private practice. I think a great therapist has good academic training, but also lots and lots of experience which has been well supported by mentoring colleagues, and the best way to get that is in agency work.

Another important note about private practice work: in order to be successful, one must continue their training throughout their careers, adding on specialized techniques which improves their chances of referrals but also reflects their interests and passion. This is an ethical responsibility of any mental health professional: to continue education and training throughout the career (it's also required by all licensing agencies). This takes money and time away from whatever your practice is. Many agencies offer some compensation for this.

When mental health professionals begin field work, they need supervision so that they can eventually get their licenses. It's important to consider licensing requirements: many employers do not have a supervisor for you who is qualified to meet your license requirements, in which case you will have to pay out of pocket for a private supervisor. This is just one aspect of what it takes to get licensed in any mental health profession. It helps to understand these things early on.

By anon277634 — On Jul 01, 2012

@post 56: Really? If you have an LCSW, that means you can work in private practice and see clients in this setting. Why did you have to get an MFT to do that line of work? An LCSW would suffice to be called a therapist.

I’ve known about a dozen MFTs who wish they had an LCSW like me. Private practice was a struggle and the clients were too few and I barely made enough to cover the overhead costs of the business, paying rent, advertising, etc. I was able to keep the private practice for a while and be called a therapist, but who was I kidding? It was all for show with very little monetary return and at the same time, I had to work long hours at a full-time mental health job where I was paid less than the LCSWs. Going back to school was a wish that I often heard in the MFT circle, because being an MFT in private practice alone was not enough to make a decent wage. I heard if I stuck with it for five years, that was the average number of years to finally see some decent return. So thinking about furthering my education, an MSW was a good route and another route was a PsyD, PhD to become a clinical psychologist.

I’m only pointing out my experience of being an MFT and being amongst frustrated MFTs. I don’t want to sound bitter, since a number of my fellow MFTs on this thread seem to have already done so. In any case, an LCSW might have worked better for me.

By anon250465 — On Feb 26, 2012

I have worked as a LCSW and then went back to school to become a MFT. I was an honor student in both programs. The MFT program was much harder. LCSW focused more on social work and community. MFT was focused more on making the person whole. The MFT program was also intense specialization learning regarding psychodynamics, psychotherapy and group counseling. MFT also make more money, but yes, it was harder to find jobs. MFTs don't always get paid, either.

Both careers are very rewarding, because both save lives, both make differences and it takes compassion, empathy, mindfulness, interpersonal communication skills and courage to listen to the stories of all those families and individuals. It also takes courage to reach out and help them.

I commend all health professionals for taking time out of your life to help someone else. It takes an extraordinary person to take on that responsibility whether you are a nurse, doctor, psychologist, therapist, etc.

By anon234543 — On Dec 12, 2011

I think this whole argument is silly and unprofessional. However, I've read a lot of comments that attribute less validity to the MFT degree because it can be obtained online.

I'm aware of a few programs that offer a hybrid program that still requires a great deal of face-to-face interaction. On the same note, I want to point out that USC offers an MSW completely online that requires no residency, is regionally accredited, and well respected. Therefore, that argument has no leg to stand on.

By anonMFT — On Sep 08, 2011

Reading through the comments, I am also disturbed by the attacks on both professions. I have my Ph.D in MFT and would like to clarify some misleading claims. I am not aware of accredited online programs for MFT. I am sure there are programs to attain MFT training, just as there are psychology programs and others, but they may not be recognized by our national association. Thus, in order to be licensed, graduates would need to prove that their coursework, practicum and training meet the standards of our field.

Also, master's level MFT's *are* required to complete practicums (or internships) outside in the community. All MFT's have to have a specific number of hours for graduation, and these hours do vary by type of client contact. Half of our hours (250 for Masters and 500 for doctorate) must be completed with couples and families. However, *all* of our hours are face-to-face client contact, so phone sessions or other methods are not counted towards our required hours.

Finally, those who think MFTs do not consider the needs of our clients in the community and the resources necessary to help them, are seriously misinformed about our work. We may not have specific training or classes in such, but that does not mean we do not spend a significant amount of time networking, establishing collaborative relationships and educating ourselves about the available resources that can help our clients.

Again, we are not trying to claim we do what MSW's do, just as they cannot claim they do what we do. However, we do not mistreat our clients and are definitely not ignorant of the systemic needs they all require. The foundation of MFT is in systems theory and our way of conceptualizing, treating and helping clients incorporates all levels of their life, including the necessary supports and resources in their life that serve to benefit, as well as interfere with their functioning.

It is true that not all states recognize MFTs, which is a shame and more representative of our small numbers than incompetence. Programs do not accept and graduate high numbers of students each year. My cohort in the Masters program consisted of nine students, while my cohort for my Ph.D had only four students. While this hurts our overall presence in the clinical domain, it allows for intense training that provides one-on-one focus and mentoring for each student.

As far as trying to compare the two fields, it is nonsense. They both have strengths and are not meant to challenge one another. MFT is newer, but again, that does not mean that we are less trained to provide therapeutic services to clients. I have worked with many MSW's and even have had several as clients. My experience with these professionals has been positive and I have enjoyed the opportunities to collaborate and learn from them. Some have said they could not do the work that I do, and I have felt the same about their work, which is why both fields are needed for clients. We can all meet their needs without trying to slander the other.

It seems that this is more of a turf war than anything, and it is disappointing to see professionals act in ways that only serve to highlight their ego and insecurity rather than than their competence and passion for their work.

By anon212552 — On Sep 07, 2011

The bottom line: If you want to survive financially, become an LCSW. I have had to refuse several jobs because I am an MFT, not an LCSW. Period. End of story.

By anon201916 — On Aug 01, 2011

I want to say being either a MFT or a SW can have a rewarding outcome. Currently yes, MFTs are the new kids on the block but that shouldn't discount what they are capable of. SWs have been around for a while and is generally more understood. With each path, it is generally up to the individual to make the best of what is given to them and how they are able to change the lives of those they serve. In addition, each school that houses each of their disciplines greatly shape how each student will serve the population they come in contact with.

If you look into MFT theory, many of the major theorists and well known individuals were/are LCSW or MDs however, MFTs not only concentrate on the individual, they look into how their families and communities shape their behaviors and to what capacity this comes into play. The goal is to give the family (as a whole) a balance so that they are able to do this themselves and without the assistance of others. SWs are very adept in coordinating resources that will make sure the families' needs are met and often will be able to find places to help the family more than a MFT can.

While many SWs and SW programs do have some emphasis on theory and counseling, this does not replace some of the experience and theory received in a MFT Program. Likewise, MFT programs do have a heavy emphasis on theory and social justice (depending on the program of study), however, SW programs are able to handle more of the community networking.

You would be surprised to see some of the things coming out of the MFT field as they are groundbreaking and when executed correctly, allow the family to become self sufficient more quickly.

What I would request to happen for new and upcoming SWs and MFTs is for our fields to merge and collaborate in the best interest of the individuals we serve. All therapists and social workers should receive the same compensation from third party payers as the work we do is essentially the same, however, there are different ways we may arrive at the same point.

By anon198680 — On Jul 20, 2011

I believe a few people here have a misunderstanding of LCSW and MFT. First, MFTs are not known for making community referrals, but to simply provide therapy. LCSW or MSW has significantly less training on therapy, theories, etc. during their graduate program hence Masters of "Social Work." MFTs programs are tailored to just therapy, theories, etc.

The reason LCSWs have to complete more supervised, clinical hours than MFTs is because most of their graduate courses are not tailored to the therapy realm. It makes since for someone who does not have many therapy courses to have more supervised, clinical hours so that they can have the experience and knowledge. Yes, MFTs can receive their degree online, however, it does not make them less sufficient. MFTs online programs still have to complete residencies, practicums, and internships that will give them plenty of face to face interaction. In fact, there are a few MFT board members that help come up with policy rules and regulations, actually teach at some of those online programs.

MFTs and LCSWs are both great professionals and this is ridiculous that people are downing others because of the profession they chose. Apparently, the ones who are bickering may be upset at themselves for wishing they pick the other profession because if you were mature professionals you would be praising both professions; they help those who are in need and that is all that matters.

By anon182934 — On Jun 03, 2011

LCSW is the best. Highest pay, most jobs, and most marketable license.

By anon180912 — On May 27, 2011

I am an LCSW and work alongside LCPC's, many of whom regret not getting an MSW. I have a thriving private practice as an LCSW and have more referrals than I can accept. I can bill all insurance companies and medicare, unlike the LCPC's which is why many hospitals and clinics are reluctant to hire them.

Perhaps it is because you can get an LCPC license coming out of an unaccredited program?

To sum it all up though, I have worked with LCSW's, LCPC's, LMFT's, Ph.D.'s, Psy.D.'s, Ed.D.'s ann MD's and DO's who I wouldn't send a dog to and many of all of the above who I would gladly refer to.

By anon176404 — On May 15, 2011

MFT's mostly study psychology and the individual. The focus seems to be what is wrong with the individual.

LCSW's study social work and psychology. LSCW's are taught to assist the client to use their strengths to assist them overcome challenges no matter what they are. LCSW's study the person in their environment. How they are affected by those around them and how they affect those around them. Bio-psycho-social study.

In my experience, MFT's are more well versed in diagnosis while LCSW's are more well versed in referral and community support.

Most of the MFT's and LCSW's I have met care very deeply for those they serve.

Can't we all just get along? - Rodney King

By anon173611 — On May 08, 2011

I see a lot of people post their opinions between the LCSW, LPC and MFT, often stating that LCSWs do not have a strong theoretical background in psychology. Clearly these people are not LCSWs.

I am an LCSW, and my graduate program was very much clinical. My clinical supervision was demanding, and the test was very difficult. There are many different schools of social work, and with a little research you can find one that fits your practice orientation. They have urban generalist, social advocacy, clinical and many other programs or areas of concentration that specialize…(e.g. administration and planning, child welfare, etc). I completed my internships in hospital inpatient/outpatient psychiatry settings and jail psych services.

So if you are looking for a therapist, or considering a graduate program, I would consider the therapist (the person) or the school of training, and keep in mind that LCSWs obtain the highest ranking license in the Master's level counseling arena, it is rigorous, and they have very diversified training.

In many states, LCSWs are now considered licensed medical providers (e.g. when working for mental health agencies, do not need a psychiatrist to approve their assessments or treatment plans).

In Oregon, all QMHPs working for agencies (with the exception of LCSWs), require medical supervision when providing therapy/services. I think you are in good hands with LCSWs. Good luck in your choices.

By anon166724 — On Apr 09, 2011

I have been deciding weather to pursue an MFT or an MSW for quite some time. I have done a ton of research and I really don't understand all this bickering. It's like a college rivalry, or a tastes great, less filling Bud Light commercial. Come one. MFT's are newer, but to consider that a bad thing is "penny wise and pound foolish".

LCSW's did not make the cut of Best Careers that factored in income, projected employment growth, flexibility and job prospects.

Again, I haven't made up my mind. But I am close to going with the MFT for the following reasons.

When I want to select an MSW it's because of its history, reputation and clout, not because of the curriculum or course of study (even when you have a mental health concentration).

MFT coursework is all therapy/psychology driven and that's what I want to study the most. It's so much that way, that you can ultimately continue your education and get a Ph.D in Psychology.

Bottom line: The difference in reputation will probably shrink, and neither one should be threatened by the other. And as I write this I'm realizing what my decision will probably be.

I was a bit put off by a sort of superiority complex that many LCSW's demonstrate, and I think LMFTs should stop responding in a defensive manner, but rather a proud one.

By anon166663 — On Apr 09, 2011

Several years ago I learned that MFTs can be supervised for some, but all, of their post graduate hours by an LCSW. An LCSW cannot have an MFT supervise or sign off on their post graduate hours. This was surprising to me.

By anon166662 — On Apr 09, 2011

In response to #42: One of the things I initially tell my clients is that I will never play games with them and that I will always be honest with them. It sounds like you've had a bad experience, possibly a negative fit between client and therapist. This happens sometimes. Just know that there are some wonderful therapists out there.

By anon166659 — On Apr 09, 2011

I respect both LCSWs and MFTs. What matters most is heart and knowledge. The ability to develop a healthy therapeutic relationship with client(s), apply appropriate skills, and professionally collaborate/link with support systems are what matters.

I chose the MSW/LCSW route because the license is recognized worldwide. I wanted to be prepared for wherever life took me.

To answer #17's question, MFTs cannot yet bill Medicare. Per the AAMFT, the MFT license is recognized in 41 states, not nationally yet. Licensed social workers are recognized nationally and so can bill Medicare.

By anon161558 — On Mar 20, 2011

Don't trust any of them, unless you have thoroughly checked them out. This is not an honest profession and they all have to make their boat payments. They also just play games with you.

By anon150318 — On Feb 07, 2011

A correction to my post (40). Should say LPC, not LPN in second paragraph.

By anon149727 — On Feb 05, 2011

I'm very surprised that in this entire discussion only one person mentioned the LPC. To the initial question asked - at the master's level there are three independent practitioner categories: social workers, marriage and family therapists, and professional counselors. Titles for professional counselors vary by state and include: LPC, LMHC, LPCC, etc., but all include The words "licensed" and "counselor".

Professional counseling is the newest category, but growing fast. LCSWs, MFTs, and LPNs are all well qualified for therapeutic counseling services - that's why they are granted independent practitioner privileges, but if you would like to possibly continue education to be a licensed psychologist, I would strongly encourage considering a Master's in counseling psychology at a school that also has a Doctorate in counseling psychology. Good luck!

By anon149619 — On Feb 04, 2011

I am an LPC and appreciate the pride each of you show for your respective credentials in this interesting debate. However, we master's level mental health practitioners would do better to harness this energy and push for a unified title we could all share. Imagine the force we would have in the mental healthcare world.

Also, a unified title would enable better oversight of the profession as a whole. If people with doctorates as different as school psychology, child psychology, and counseling psychology can share a professional title; LCSWs, MFTs, and LPNs can too.

By anon131176 — On Dec 01, 2010

If you're in the Los Angeles area, I recommend the MSW program at CSUN. It's very demanding, but also well-regarded and it's very well connected in terms of field placements. We are, in fact getting psychological theories as part of our education, but I'll also be qualified to start and run my own non-profit (or to work for someone else's NP, hospital, community clinic, etc.) upon graduation.

I intend to continue my education in psychology (I hold a BS in the subject) in my CEUs and by finding mentors and supervisors who can teach me what I want to know (which is how therapists were originally trained). The consumer must thoroughly investigate any therapist to see if the "fit" is appropriate for them.

I've had great therapy from MFTs and PhD Psych professionals, so I have nothing against the profession. I do, however, want to be able to get a job and pay back my student loans. On the recommendation of a teacher of mine, who was an MFT/MS-Psych, I applied to the MSW program as he felt it was a broader and more employable degree.

I think you can also become a great therapist in private practice by pursuing an MFT that speaks to your interests and skills - just expect that it will take longer to establish a practice and pay your bills. At least in California.

By anon121775 — On Oct 25, 2010

You all should shut up! Stop your petty arguing like little bad children and go help some families. I'm sickened by this crap. Use your energy for something useful. An MFT is not an LCSW. Some families need one but not the other. Work together, like we do here in LA.

By dcicconi — On Oct 08, 2010

I am a doctor of clinical psychology (USC) and I worked inpatient psychiatric for 12 years and met many LCSWs in that setting. I've also known and trained many MFTs and Phds. I know the curriculum of both disciplines and don't know why you are all arguing. Simply put, you are comparing apples to oranges.

While there is overlap, it is an insult to both professions to compare them. They are trained to do different things. For example, the individual studying psychology will be almost completely immersed in understanding and diagnosing behavior, and carrying out treatment plans over time. While the individual studying social work will learn this to an extent, they will be more immersed in learning from many different areas of social service.

In short, the licenced MA or Phd in psychology is more intensely trained in psychotherapy. Most will work in private practice, and some in institutional settings. The licensed MA or Phd in social work can work in many settings, using a variety of well-learned skills and knowledge that the psychologist may only know in a general way. So each has specialized knowledge that is essential to our society. Apples and oranges again.

In my opinion, each should commit to their strengths and not overlap into each other's area of expertise (that is really why you are all arguing. You're trying to push into each other's field). I've seen many frustrated LCSWs out of their league when attempting to have a private practice doing psychotherapy and just as many MFTs and Ph.D.s feeling lost trying to build a program in the community setting.

I hope this helps. And please note that what I say above does not apply to the expertise of all of you. Just be of good service in the best way you can.

By anon115147 — On Sep 30, 2010

In my years on this planet I have found that human beings as a whole have the need for a hierarchy in which one can hold superiority over another in order to feel better about themselves.

I received my LCSW in 1986. My sister is an MFT (2000) and my mother a Phd in psychology (1994) so I am very aware of what it takes to obtain all three of these titles. I have never heard of someone receiving hours ladling soup in a soup kitchen. They might get hours while providing information and referral services.

I don't know what the LCSW test is like now but I know when I took it, to pass, I had to truly understand a large variety of psychological theories, know how and when to apply these theories,understand the formation and creation of a treatment plan and how to carry out that plan. I received incredible supervision from LCSWs who were very respected in the field of psychotherapy. Like #16 above I agree.

I have experienced terrible MFTs and terrible LCSWs in equal proportion. On the countryside I have also experienced really good therapists in each of the three professions in equal proportion. My mother and sister often call me for professional advice and vice versa. All three of us believe that to be a good therapist we must always be growing our knowledge base.

By anon112519 — On Sep 20, 2010

The most reliable information for any profession in the U.S. can be found from the U.S. Department of Labor. According to the American Psychological Association, the salaries of psychologists have been declining over the last nine years.

If a Ph.D is required to be a Clinical Psychologist, why can one expect to become a psychotherapist with a Masters Degree in Psychology.

By anon111524 — On Sep 17, 2010

Some of you don't even deserve to be called medical professionals from what I'm reading. Instead of debating in a civil manner, some of you resort to petty name calling and chest thumping to project your dominance over other fields of study.

It's obvious that some of you aren't mature and secure enough in your own skin, and your providing help to others lol. It would be best to find the good in others and their fields of study rather than attempting to ridicule them.

By anon84535 — On May 16, 2010

MFTs are marriage counselors and should not be called therapists. They are Johnny come latelies.

Clinical social workers were doing therapy long before there ever was an MFT or MFCC. Social work also has many, many doctoral programs around the country. Example: Columbia University the first school of Social work, University of California, Berkeley, UCLA, USC to just name a few out of many many. They include DSW, (clinical) Phd. (clinical) and Policy Phd. These are major universities not some online class such as the MFT.

Anyone who is "unaware" of these degrees and the programs out there should really go back to school and finish their education and find out more about the facts.

I don't know how MFTs even function within the business, without knowing what programs are available to you/your clients and/or who does what in our field.

There is a huge amount of ignorance by MFTs out there regarding their roles and who else works in the same field and what they do and how that affects behavior such as environmental influences, economic, etc., along with what programs are out there to even assist your patients.

If you don't know these things exactly, how do you people even make appropriate, ethical and informed referrals for your clients? Apparently you don't. Which is a huge disservice to your clients.

I suggest you learn about your options within the business and appropriate referring, before you lose your license. These are very basic things in therapy. Apparently not for MFTs though. It is sad that people who are partially trained are even out there making disparaging remarks about their colleagues.

By anon84397 — On May 15, 2010

This idea that social workers can get their hours in graduate school by working in a soup kitchen is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read and completely false.

First, hours in a SW programs and MFT programs are different.

MSW's have to complete a real internship. Which means our clinical hours (in school) do not count for our licensing. Whereas MFT's begin their licensing and clinical hours while they are in school.

MSW students have to complete their internship hours while in school, 2080 to be exact.

Then, they have to complete the total 3200 hours required (Calif) in clinical practice (POST) MSW degree. Which is a total of 5280 hrs of supervised clinical hours. This is far more training and clinical experience/supervision than any MFT program in the country.

So this idea that LCSW's don't have the clinical training MFT's do is purely erroneous.

Also, MFT's can get their licenses online. There are no MSW programs (that are accredited) online.

You must go to a major university to get an MSW degree, unlike MFT.

Social workers do more clinical psychotherapy/mental health work in this country than psychologists, MFT's combined. Look at the statistics on the government websites and you can see for yourself.

One last thing: MFT's do not study anything different than MSW's. We all study the same psychological theories, the same evidence based treatments. While in practice we all perform these theories and treatment plans in much the same way. Except SW's have a little broader perspective and are more well rounded therapists that MFT's.

Social workers have been around for well over 100 years whereas MFT's are struggling to make themselves relevant with no real foundation.

By anon84250 — On May 14, 2010

The difference here is actually bigger than this article suggests. An LCSW is not a therapist. I do not care what they say or who they try to spin it but they are not. They are social workers, and while they have some training in psychotherapy, their academic studies focus heavily on community outreach, and providing social services to those they serve.

If you need a therapist you need ac MFT. MFT programs are designed to focus as heavily as possible on psychology and counseling techniques. Also, consider that many MFT programs are coupled with doctorate programs where you can complete your master's in counseling psych and continue on to complete your doctorate.

I am unaware of any MSW programs that allow this because simply put, they completely lack the skill and education necessary to understand a Psy. D program because they do not have the education or training in psychology needed to do well in such a program.

LCSW's are social workers and should not call themselves therapists. Also, and this is very important, the vast majority of therapists in private practice are MFTs. 'Nuff said.

By anon84245 — On May 14, 2010

I have my MFT and have worked alongside LCSWs for many years and the truth is, both are very qualified to provide social services.

However, what caused me to chose the MFT is simple: if you want a therapist you need someone who has the most available training and education in psychology. A quick glance at the academics of a LCSW will show you that they receive very little actual training in psychology and almost none in how to actually be a therapist. They are very good at providing community outreach and organizing community services for clients but I do not consider them to be therapists and it was only really after the emergence of the MFT that they started to use the term counselor or therapist to describe themselves after having fought tooth and nail to keep the MFT license from being created.

Right now, the LCSW is more widely accepted, however, the field of psychology is changing more rapidly at this time than at any other time in its history and simply put, the LCSW degree program does not understand these changes and is not including the idea of positive psychology as part of their curriculum.

I know this because as an adjunct professor at a community college I am very aware of what the average MFT program and MSW programs offer.

In my years working in this field, I have learned to do basically the same thing as a social worker, as I was for years a case manager at a adult mental health clinic and did the same things they did.

I have a stronger background in psychology however, and I dare say, as the field changes, the MFT will emerge over the next 30 years to replace the LCSW as the main degree program for therapists.

By anon79145 — On Apr 21, 2010

To get my LCSW in Florida, I had to complete 1500 supervised psychotherapy hours, and receive 1 hour of supervision for every 2 hours of therapy I provided from an LCSW. NASW (National Assn. of Social Workers) also has a powerful lobby, which makes the difference in reimbursement rate from insurance providers and makes social work more recognizable than other licenses.

By anon68715 — On Mar 03, 2010

I am currently working on my MSW and plan to get my LCSW right after graduation.

MSW programs usually have concentrations that allow you to specialize in different fields: health, mental health, policy, children and families, etc.

Those students that select mental health and/or children and families tend to develop stronger clinical skills than someone who might focus on community organization. Additionally, some MSW programs are known for being very clinical. Not to say that micro practice is better than macro practice - I just want to say that not all MSWs are the same. Cheers!

By anon68537 — On Mar 03, 2010

Social Workers are more marketable because it is a profession that is recognized internationally. If you are looking for more job opportunities, growth, and security, especially in this economy, then an MSW is a better choice.

I have never heard of social workers regretting their degree and wishing they instead completed an MFT degree. They might have job satisfaction and complain, but an MFT degree is not the solution. On the other hand, I have heard of MFTs being disappointed of where their career has taken them, sometimes wishing they had chosen an MSW degree or trying to apply for jobs that is more oriented to the field of social work, then complaining when they don't get it. That might be one reason why some posts sound bitter.

A hospital might hire for the position of medical social worker, a school for the position of school social worker, CPS agency for children's social worker, government mental health dept for a clinical social worker, a prison system for a psychiatric social worker, foster care agency for a foster care or adoption social worker, veteran services for military social worker...the list goes on.

Someone with an LCSW can definitely work with the population in these areas and obviously have to provide individual, group, or family therapy. On the other hand, for an MFT to get a job in one of these areas, they would essentially have to be called a social worker.

Without the similar training and education of social workers, it is difficult to justify hiring an MFT over an MSW, whether licensed or not.

It is true, that some of these social worker positions are actually held by EMTs and they got in for one reason or another. They are then often called social workers and no one really knows they are EMTs until they see their business card.

So why go into an MFT program if you are going to try to get into social work or end up being called a social worker?

It is tough to start off your career in private practice without a day job and market research says that it takes five years or so to make a living wage out of having your own business in this area.

So I have seen EMTs having a difficult time, especially since the Los Angeles area is full of therapists.

Now we have more life coaches, hypnotherapists, and all the other ones that claim to do some kind of psychotherapy.

Also, some EMTs complain that LCSW's are not as clinically trained as they are. When an MFT talks to a social worker from a government agency and such places that employ them, they must remember that they might be talking to someone with a bachelor's in social work, so they might not be as clinically trained, just because they are called social workers, doesn't mean they are a LCSW.

Regarding the education, an MFT can also acquire some of the 3,200 hours of supervision while they are in school and at their internship. An MSW has to do two years of internship without counting any of those hours.

When they graduate, then they can start accruing some of those hours. With that in mind, then one can argue that an MSW has plenty of opportunity to have a strong foundation in therapy.

It is true that EMTs are now making strides with the help of their professional associations, but social workers have had this support for many decades and continues to be the stronger voice with bills being introduced in various areas where you might find social workers.

By taniaalcala — On Feb 04, 2010

Reading the blog has made me realize that LCSW is a better choice for career options and job security if I want to become a counselor.

I am aware that both MFT and LCSW are both equally qualified to do counseling, but at this point security in my life, job security is very important for me.

Can someone give me their opinion about the LCSW offered at Azusa Pacific University compared to San Diego State University? The student ratio at Azusa is smaller, but it costs 30k. What is your opinion?

By anon63804 — On Feb 03, 2010

MFT programs are too numerous and have less standardization. In addition, hardly any mental health centers and government facilities hire MFT. Outside of California, MFTs are non-existent. Go for the MSW program which is recognized internationally.

By anon58823 — On Jan 04, 2010

And this is an unbiased article? Then according to this, there is no true benefit of MFT.

By anon58076 — On Dec 29, 2009

The MFT was created by the California State Legislature in 1968. It is not really a profession as it has no specific body of knowledge, theory or practice literature. Most marriage counseling journals are written by clinical social workers or psychologists.

The United States Department of Labor is the most objective way to find out job options of clinical social workers, psychologists and MFTs.

The VA, hospitals and Departments of Mental Health must hire clinical social workers. Anyone can do marriage counselors without the MFT license. This can be easily confirmed by visiting the website the BBS.

I have an LCSW as well as a post graduate certificate in child and adolescent psychotherapy from Harvard University School of Medicine. No MFT can make such a claim. G. Anderson

PS. I served on the BBS for two terims.

By anon57511 — On Dec 23, 2009

I have completed my PhD in clinical Psyc and passed the EPPP recently. I have found that the MFTs who have graduated from a AAMFT accredited institution are well versed in theory, practice, and overall knowledge of the field while LCSWs are not as insightful or intuitive as they have been trained in policy and process more than anything else.

If you want to know a a little of everything and not a lot of a certain specific method, then LCSW is the way to go. The specifics including MFT, Psychology, and CRC are highly specialized curricula.

There may be more opportunities overall with the LCSW, but there is definitely a demand for MFT, psychologists, and others out there. If you interview for a specific job in therapy or counseling, most are going to take (myself included) an LMFT, psychologist, LPC, or CMHC 10 times quicker than an LCSW. There are some great LCSWs out there, but most are viewed as glorified paper pushers.

By anon54556 — On Dec 01, 2009

I'm an MFT who recently got transferred through the county from a clinical setting to child

welfare so I've been exposed to the different sides of this debate.

I've found consistently that my LCSW colleagues, both in the county mental health clinical setting and in child welfare, were lacking in both clinical assessment and treatment models. Didn't go to far beyond brief therapy, solution focused and maybe some rudimentary CBT tools.

I think the "broad focus" definitely applies to the social work curriculum vs an mft curriculum that focus mainly on clinical skill. I was always amazed that for every five to six direct face to face hours I could count weekly towards my licensure hours, my MSW colleges automatically just got 40 hours a week for doing paperwork, going to a couple of meetings and making phone calls to make sure people came to their med appointments.

To count hours, they just looked on their pay stub. I always thought there was a disconnect there.

By anon50599 — On Oct 29, 2009

Hi All - I am trying to find out if an MFT can sign-up to bill Medicare? My girlfriend just passed her MFT tests and now would like to become eligible to bill Medicare but all I see on their site is a form for LCSW. Does anyone know if an MFT can apply for and bill Medicare? Thank you very much.

By anon49011 — On Oct 16, 2009

I'm a new LCSW in California, and I have a sister who is an LMFT. There's room for everyone, harmoniously, in the world of psychotherapy, I think. However, I agree: it is much harder to get into a graduate school of social work, and you do need high grades, high test scores (although not all require the GRE, some do. I did it.), and great recommendations. These schools are tough to get through, too -- very high standards are applied for academic performance. I take exception to comments stating that MSW's have not concentrated their studies in psychotherapy. On the contrary, I concentrated my studies in psychotherapy already in undergrad. When I went into the MSW grad program, I selected the route of psychotherapy/individual services. I have a very strong educational background in psychotherapy, from every aspect that is studied in other programs, and I did plan my internships and supervised hours so that I was always doing psychotherapy, supervised by LCSW's, MSW's, Psychologists, and Psychiatrists. I think the discussion of Master's Level practitioners comes down to this: If the individual has made it his or her business to learn every aspect of psychotherapy, and to learn it well, under good professors and programs, and good qualified supervisors, in psychotherapy hours, it does not matter what degree they have. The degree will not settle the competency issue: the individual will. Peace! :)

By anon44745 — On Sep 10, 2009

I am an LMFT, and the director of a clinic that employs LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCs, etc. There are some pretty marked differences (in general) between MFTs and CSWs.

Someone stated that the training that LCSWs receives is more broad, which is true. And I think it is fair to say that more broad equals less specialized, and likewise, more specialized equals less broad. MFTs tend to have a better foundation in therapy (specialized), while CSWs tend to have a better foundation in social work (broad). Both are systemic in their approach, and both are generally capable of learning the skills involved in the other field.

Of course, as an MFT, I am biased and believe that MFT is the way to go (especially with the current progress that we are making as a profession, and especially in the state of TX), but that is simply because therapy is where my heart is. I am not so self-centered as to say that one profession is more important than the other. Both are important. Both are necessary. And the "better" choice is the choice that fits your personality and your goals better.

By anon44405 — On Sep 07, 2009

Some of the comments made here are absolutely ridiculous! I am an MFT. Let's agree to disagree in the fact that MSWs do not know MFTs and MFTs do not know MSWs. The article above has some seriously wrong information in it, and the person who posted the comment that it is easier to get an MSW is insane. My BA was not in behavioral sciences, so that meant I had to take 18 hours of prerequisites to get into my MFT program. On top of that, an MSW can work at a soup kitchen and get their hours, whereas, I had to be doing therapy. If my client didn't come, I didn't get the hour. Basically, I am doing my best here not to bash social workers, because I don't appreciate MFT being bashed. I don't like how this information is being presented, because it is biased, in a major way. MFTs do not have as many job opportunities, but it is not because we are not as good or not as prepared. It is because our profession hasn't been around all that long. Please note however that MFTs are now licensed professionals in all 50 states. MSWs, we are never going to agree on who's degree is better, because if we thought the other was, we would have done that degree instead of our chosen one. So, we aren't ever going to agree, but could we at least show a little respect. Some of the things that you are writing here are just hogwash. Honestly, I don't have to make your profession look bad because, well, you do it for yourself.

By anon40773 — On Aug 10, 2009

I believe that the training and experience of an LCSW is broader than an MFT. I also believe that it is easier to receive an MFT in some way. You can complete your MFT at a small private school, such as Philipps Graduate School, Chicago School of Los Angeles, Argosy University, etc., which most likely do not require a high GPA or a competitive GRE score. They will even admit you to the program with an exception if you have a low GPA and it doesn't matter what BA you completed when you apply for an MFT degree. I believe there should be tougher pre-requisites if the BA is not even in the behavioral sciences field.

Whereas, a Social Work Degree (MSW) can only be obtained at a few universities in California, examples are UC or CalState and it is very competitive in terms of who is admitted to the program. I also know that many government agencies, hospitals, private agencies, etc. usually require a MSW or LCSW for certain positions and make it clear that they do not want someone with an MFT background, even though the written or clinical vignette exams and hours completed might be similar. The educational background is just different and it is tougher to go through school for an MSW rather than an MFT.

By anon37199 — On Jul 17, 2009

LCSW is the most lucrative job in the helping professions. It is also the most misunderstood. People routinely believe that social workers make little money. Let them think that social workers make little money, more money and job security for us.

By rita1213 — On Jul 05, 2009

Hi... I am currently an MFT Intern and have received my master's in counseling. Is it possible to switch to LCSW or would I need to return to school for a MSW? Thanks for any info. or advice.

By anon34920 — On Jun 30, 2009

Excellent article. LCSW is definitely. the way to go! --Eric L. Davis, LCSW, ICAADC

By anon34918 — On Jun 30, 2009

I'm an MFT in a Social Work setting and you know...I've learned the social model. MFTs do have less work opportunities but it is not due to lack of preparation, it is because of the antiquated regulations because the MSW has been around for well over 60 years. MFTs are relatively new, some 30yrs...

LCSWs lack preparation in therapy, a skill that is not easily acquired.

By KrazyKabobs — On May 02, 2009

Some so called social workers are not exactly "real" social workers. Some call themselves social workers without having a license or MSW/BSW. The common perception is that social workers are feeding the poor, taking children away from dysfunctional families, helping people with housing, and filling out eligibility forms. Although these people are doing an essential job, the MSW programs do not focus on this type of work. The MSW programs in clinical tracks focus on psychotherapeutic techniques, mental health, diagnosing, and being interdisciplinary treatment team members.

The MSW program is heavily into the medical model as well as evidence based practice. Therefore, individuals with MSW and eventually an LCSW can make very good money. Some can make more than RNs, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. You can also diagnose people with mental illness and become expert witnesses in court. The LCSW opens many opportunities.

By anon31286 — On May 02, 2009

LCSW is the only way to go. Get a master's degree in social work and finish your 2 years post master's, and get your LCSW. The opportunities are abundant. The LCSW is the most recognized credential for psychotherapy practice.

By anon29315 — On Mar 30, 2009

I will be attending the MSW program at ECU come this fall and I am very excited and reassured that the MSW is the most professionally well rounded and lucrative choice.

By anon29176 — On Mar 28, 2009

LCSW can be a lucrative field since they can be employed in a variety of settings. They perform services as a clinician or administrator. I know a few LCSWs that make 90 dollars per hour as a consultant. Although the MFT can practice in similar settings as the LCSW, their scope of practice appears to be more limited.

By anon27067 — On Feb 23, 2009

I believe that LCSW's are more thoroughly trained, and can function in a myriad of clinical (and non-clinical settings) with ease, skill, and knowledge. Following my graduation from my MSW program at Smith College School for Social Work, I have been selected for and completed two post-graduate clinical fellowships and have managed an intensive outpatient treatment program. LCSW's are trained for provided excellent clinical care to their patients, and in many ways, reflect their advanced training when compared to MFTs.

By anon24193 — On Jan 08, 2009

I am a LCSW and also make 80,000 a year doing crisis intervention, individual therapy, and group therapy. There is much more opportunities with the LCSW.

By dann — On Sep 05, 2008

I am an LCSW and work in a large hospital. I have been out of school for 4 years and make 90K plus yearly bonus, which vary from 2-5K a year. I was making in the 80s by my second year. Social work is an important profession and we do valuable work so be an advocate for yourself.

By anon7815 — On Feb 03, 2008

Requirements to be an LCSW vary from state to state. In California, The Board of Behavioral Sciences is the agency that approves the training and Licensure of LCSW's. The current requirement for an LCSW is 3200 hours of experience that occurs only after they've received their Master's Degree: min. 2000 hours of supervised counseling, psychotherapy, assessment, clinical diagnosis and treatment, however some LCSW's perform more hours of their training in this area. The maximum allowance for training in client centered advocacy, research, and evaluation is 1,200 hours. Prior to completion of a Master's Degree in Social Work, there is a minimum of 1,200 field work requirement in a social agency or community setting.

The current MFT requirement in California is 3000 hours, and some of their hours can be acquired prior to obtaining their M.A. degree.

The BBS website offers a reliable explanation of the difference between the two.

In support of the recommendation made in the article addressing the question "What's the difference?" If you keyword "therapeutic alliance studies" you'll find a myriad of researchers support the idea that if you feel comfortable, and that the counselor is a right fit than you are more likely to benefit from therapy.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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