One thing I have heard a lot and that I remember saying myself is, "I don't think graduate school really trained me to be a therapist. I feel like I don't know what I'm doing."
The CSWE requires 9 core competencies for Social Workers completing the MSW degree:
1–Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior
2 –Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice
3 –Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice
4 - Engage in Practice-Informed Research and Research-Informed Practice
5 –Engage in Policy Practice
6 –Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
7 –Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
8 –Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
9 –Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
This is a lot to learn in 60 credits.
Gaining the experience, skills, and confidence needed to feel good in our role as therapist means post-graduate training for most Social Workers. This can feel daunting. I know that it did to me.
After dreaming of becoming a therapist since childhood, I felt like I wasn't providing to my clients the healing experience I wanted to provide. I still found myself scrambling to figure out what to do next with my client or how to respond to a particular moment, or, worst of all, how to engage clients who simply did not respond.
This left me questioning if being a therapist is really what I was meant to do.
Today, I can tell you that I have a thriving practice where I do challenging, creative, experiential work with clients I love seeing, and I never don't-know-what-to-do-next. It has been a journey, but the key has been identifying a treatment modality that speaks to my heart and my passion and getting solid training in it.
It doesn't matter where you practice, you have to know that you have a full toolbox and that you can use those tools with artistry and master craftsmanship. Our MSW degree is the foundation and the ticket to ride in this amazing field, but we need to keep learning.
My suggestion is (always) talking to other clinicians and getting online to research about the cutting edge modalities. Who is developing and doing this work? Where are the training programs? What speaks to my heart? Is there a theory or practice that I keep coming back to? Also, explore the question, who am I passionate about working with? Who would I really love to help?
The direction you want to go in is at the intersection of these two questions:
In the coming weeks, I look forward to sharing information about different options for Social Workers who want to explore what's out there.
If I can support you, please don't hesitate to reach out. I'd love to connect with you!
Karen J. Helfrich, LCSW-C
As a therapist, mother, daughter, partner, and seeker, I am always on the journey toward a more peaceful, authentic life. I hope to share knowledge, insights, and the ongoing unknowns I find along the path...