How Therapists Are Trained
Jennifer Kendrick here! Not only am I the clinical director at True North, but I’m also a supervisor for people seeking licensure in social work and marriage & family therapy. Many people don’t understand the differences between professions, or how the professions are trained. While the steps and regulations vary between jurisdictions, here is a basic overview.
Clinical Social Work
To become a clinical social worker, you have to first get a master’s degree in social work. This can take anywhere from two to three years, depending on the program. After graduating, you have to take a Social Work Master’s Exam, which has 170 questions (including 20 unscored pretest questions). After you pass that exam, you can practice as a clinical social worker. You’re not licensed yet, however, so you have to be supervised for a minimum of two years (in Kentucky and Indiana). Supervision is one hour per week (or two hours every two weeks), and is sometimes provided (read: paid for) by the social worker’s employer, but if it’s not, they have to pay out of pocket.
After accruing two years (or 150 hours) of supervision and 1,000 hours of client contact, the social worker is then eligible to take the Social Work Clinical Exam, which is another 170 questions (same deal with the 20 unscored pretest questions). At a minimum, by that point, your clinical social worker has spent 4 years training to serve you.
Fun fact! In Kentucky, “social worker” has title protection, which means that you can’t call yourself a social worker unless you have the required training and license.
Marriage and Family Therapy
To become a marriage and family therapist, the path is similar. You have to get a master’s degree, either in family sciences or couples & family therapy or in social work with specialized training in couples & family therapy. The path verges a bit after that. After graduation, marriage and family therapists in Kentucky and Indiana can apply for an associate’s permit, which means that they are practicing under the supervision of a fully-licensed marriage and family therapist. Like social workers, they have to be supervised for a minimum of two years (in Kentucky and Indiana). Supervision is one hour per week (or two hours every two weeks) and is sometimes provided (read: paid for) by the marriage & family therapist’s employer, but if it’s not, they have to pay out of pocket. (In Kentucky, there aren’t as many supervisors, so people often have to pay out of pocket for supervision.)
Fun fact two! Marriage and family therapists don’t just see people who are married! We see family constellations of all kinds—married, engaged, coupled, co-parenting, you name it!
Both clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists are therapists, which means that regardless of the letters after our names, we are here to help you address your mental health, relationships, and all of life’s seasons.
(Bonus fun fact! “Marriage and family therapist” also has title protection!)