Most of the letters after a social workers name are associated with the type of license that person has. Licenses are something that is regulated by the state in which the social worker is operating, or in the case of telehealth or distance counseling, it is regulated by the state in which the person who is receiving the services is residing. More on that in another future blog on telehealth. Today I’m going to tell you about the various different types of social workers that provide therapy and counseling so you can see what some of the letters after their name mean.
I am a social worker so this one is easy. Social workers go to school to get a degree in Social Work. There are associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees in Social Work. In order to be licensed in a state where the social worker would like to provide psychotherapy or counseling they would have to have a minimum of a master’s degree in Social Work.
Each state has different names and letters associated with their licenses. In New Mexico, we have two levels of license for master’s level social workers. A Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) is the initial level and then the top levels of licensure are called Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Those people have completed a significant amount of additional training under the supervision of another professional. In Texas, they also have the LMSW and LCSW licenses, but they also have a LMSW-Advance Practice (LMSW-AP) license which is for the social worker that works in a position or job other than psychotherapy or counseling. We often refer to the top level licensed social worker who provides counseling as a “clinical social worker”, but they often also consider themselves counselors and/or therapists if they are providing that type of help.