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A licensed clinical social worker helps individuals overcome mental health or substance abuse issues by providing counseling and finding housing and employment options. A social worker provides the tools and resources necessary to help clients become productive members of society despite their condition. He or she might facilitate individual and group therapy sessions, arrange for special living accommodations, and investigate long term assistance programs for people with chronic disorders. Social workers practice in a number of different clinical settings, such as hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, inpatient and outpatient mental health clinics, and private practices.
Many people with mental illnesses are fully capable of functioning in society, if they are provided with the appropriate therapy and opportunities to succeed. A licensed clinical social worker helps clients overcome their mental health issues by counseling patients, registering them in work programs, and helping them find financial resources. He or she may also counsel a patient's family, explaining what they can do to help their loved one pursue a meaningful, independent, productive lifestyle.
A licensed clinical social worker who focuses on substance abusers coordinates one-on-one and group therapy sessions, where he or she provides support and initiates a program of recovery. He or she helps a client identify problems and discusses how to rise above them. After becoming familiar with an individual's situation, the social worker might refer the recovering person to a psychologist or enroll him or her in a halfway house or other group home.
To become a licensed clinical social worker, a person must typically have a master's degree in social work or counseling. Upon the completion of a degree program, he or she is often required to work as an intern or assistant for at least two years before he or she can take a licensing examination and work independently. Many new social workers seek additional certification to improve their credentials and their chances of finding jobs. In the United States, the National Association of Social Workers offers a certification program for current and future clinical social workers. Many other countries have accredited organizations which offer similar certification procedures.
There is a strong need for experienced clinical social workers, especially in hospitals and mental health facilities, to help a growing population of mentally ill persons. To cull the prison population, substance abusers who are convicted of crimes are frequently being referred to treatment programs instead of going to jail. Skilled social workers are essential in providing such people with the care and education they need to turn their lives around and transition back into society.