In March 2020, the National Association of Social Workers provided guidance for social workers regarding the many legal and practical considerations to take into account when providing what they referred to as "Telemental Health." They defined this as "the practice of delivering clinical health care services via technology assisted media or other electronic means between a practitioner and a client who are located in two different locations."
It's no wonder that guidance was needed. The number of changes that were made to rules regarding HIPAA, licensure, and Medicare requirements for social workers were completely upended by COVID-19. But where there is change, there is also opportunity.
It's an exciting time for social workers considering the profession has experienced a renaissance in terms of providing care on the cutting edge of telemedicine. There has been no greater demand for telehealth providers than those in the mental health space. Unprecedented times require unprecedented assistance from our frontline mental health providers.
In this guide we'll try and give you all the information you need to learn about becoming an LCSW and being part of the telemedicine revolution. So buckle up, there's quite a bit of information to get through!
What is an LCSW? What does an LCSW do?
LCSW stands for a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. According to the University of Southern California's Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker is "a practitioner who has been approved by a state licensing board to provide comprehensive mental health services and assume greater responsibilities than a social worker who is not licensed."
There's no shortage of the type of work opportunities available. To select just a few of the opportunities from the USC website, LSCWs may be called upon to:
How do I become an LCSW?
LCSW requirements vary by state but generally involve earning a master's in social work, completing additional supervised clinical experience, and passing licensing examinations. The licensing examinations include an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) national clinical exam and passing a law and ethics exam that are state dependent.
These are rigorous tests. Given that almost 1 in 5 fail the ASWB national exam, there are numerous reputable LCSW prep courses. Make sure you do your research online for the companies with the best track record. There are also a number of free LCSW study groups that have formed on Facebook and other social media of which you can take advantage.
Does an LCSW need supervision?
Only prior to being licensed practitioners. It is very important to track your hours as an LCSW trainee and there are numerous software programs that can assist with LCSW hour tracking. The required number of hours and disciplines vary by state but generally include psychosocial diagnosis, assessment and treatment, consultation & evaluation, group and individual psychotherapy, counseling, and research. Please see your state Board of Behavioral Sciences for the forms needed to meet your supervision requirements.
How much does an LCSW make?
According to ZipRecruiter's database, LCSW salaries vary widely by state, ranging from approximately $55,000 annually in Florida to approximately $76,000 annually in Massachusetts. The national average was reported as approximately $72,000 nationally. These figures break down to an hourly pay ranging $26 to almost $37 an hour. Given the wide range in pay, telemedicine offers an opportunity to provide care to areas of the country where LCSWs are very much in demand and can command top dollar. This is especially true in some states that have waived certain state licensure requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Does an LCSW need malpractice insurance?
Unfortunately, we live in litigious times. Providers can be sued for medical complaints regardless of whether or not you are at fault. There is professional liability insurance for social workers that can protect you from such claims. The National Association of Social Workers offers recommended Professional Liability Insurance through partner organizations to help protect social workers.
What are LCSW insurance reimbursement rates for psychotherapy?
Oh how we wish we could tell you. This varies widely by locale, insurance plan, and degree of specialization. The folks at Therathink have put together quite a good article on why this market is so opaque and some basic ballpark figures for what you can expect.
What LCSW conferences should I be attending in 2021?
The NASW conference is occurring virtually from June 22-24, 2021. This conference offers opportunities for "professional development, networking, and earning continuing education credit." Be sure to check out your local and state social worker associations for more local conferences that may be occurring throughout the year! Don't forget, most states require continuing education credits for licensure renewal.
Are there opportunities for LCSWs to become involved in telemedicine?
Absolutely! There is no better time for LCSWs to dip their toes into the telemedicine waters. Are you already an LCSW and looking for that perfect opportunity to get involved in telemedicine? Check out the latest opportunities on our website daily! Not finding the right opportunity? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll do our best to help! Our service is always free for providers.