Wanting to go into social work - specifically mental health - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 3 Old 08-27-2008, 11:48 AM - Thread Starter
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This summer I started going back to school to finish a BS degree, I have a liberal arts AA (luckily I have only taken 3 courses so far including this current semester). I thought I finally knew what I wanted to major in, which was Computer Information Systems, but I think I only decided that because it would help further my current career and the $$ associated with the advancement was attractive. However, I am feeling like a sellout. I feel like I chose something based on money & status rather than an area in which I truly would be fulfilled. I had seriously thought about going into social work when I was younger but then was turned off after I understood how little $$ these professions make (young & selfish). I have been volunteering at a local nonprofit and I just can't ignore the "call" I guess you could say I feel.

So, tell me about working in the social work/mental health/counseling community. I know I will need to get my Masters to have a successful career in this field. What accreditation should I look for in my BS and MS programs? Any tips, advice, etc is welcomed!

freethinking mom to DD 4/2006 and DS 1/2010
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#2 of 3 Old 08-28-2008, 03:57 AM
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I work in mental health, in an acute care inpatient facility. I have a Bachelors and am finishing a long, drawn out MSW. I would recommend completing your BA/BS in a field like psychology or social work and trying to do any internships/practicum in mental health agencies or hospitals. Once you have experience, you most likely will be able to find work even with just a bachelors. This can be helpful as you work towards a masters degree! In particular, working with adults with severe and persistent mental illness or children with social and emotional disorders are two areas that very much look for prior experience in job applicants.

The positive in going into this field is that you will never want for a job. I have moved a lot, and I have always been able to find good jobs within weeks of moving to a new town.

And the pay is not terrible, really. With a master's, depending on where you live, you can expect to make around $20/hour working for an agency. If you become licensed and do individual/family/group therapy there is potential to make a lot more.

I would recommend an MSW. Right now, the way Medicare rules are written, MS in Counseling cannot bill as independent practitioners, while LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) can. When it comes to being hired by an agency or hospital, either degree is fine, but if you ever wanted to go out on your own and start a practice, you would want an LCSW.

The negatives are just like any service field - stressful work often in broken/ineffective systems. Working with adults with severe and persistent mental illness can be challenging in that progress is in small steps, and often three steps forward, two steps back, with lots of setbacks along the way. But if you can find an agency or practice that works compassionately and effectively, it can be incredibly rewarding to feel that you are doing some good for a population who has been marginalized and mistreated for far too long.

...the cuties in my avatar are my wonderful, c-section born, fully vaccinated sweethearts...
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#3 of 3 Old 08-28-2008, 08:20 PM
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I work as a counselor in mental health. The pay in the beginning is not great. When I had my BA I made about 28 thousand a year. Once I got my MA I began earning 37, 000 a year and over 3 years at an agency moved up to 40,000.

I recently got my LCPC license and now I am expecting to make much more. However A) I have about 10 years of experience in my field, B)I have many connections, C) I've learned skills that are very marketable (EMDR, trauma, Spanish etc....). I will be an independent contractor making between 55-70 dollars an hour. I am also toying with the idea of doing private practice work.

Like the pp I also recommend the LCSW. While the LCPC is comparable-we don't get to bill Medicare.

The downsides: You have to have very strong boundaries, and an ability to now allow client's problems to affect you. You also can't take things personally. Clients work through relational stuff with you-so they can hate you and love you within one session. I also know that many agencies are becomming "fee for service" which means that you are rated on some sort of productivity scale-which means that you are somehow not doing well if you have hours where you don't see clients. This causes people to double book. Thankfully I was able to find an agency position where this is not happening-but I know to many people that are in this and are very unhappy.

Karen, mother to a wonderful active three year old.
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