Social workers can diagnose mental health conditions, and provide talk therapy, but cannot prescribe medication for mental health.
A key distinction between them and other mental health professionals is that social workers are trained to specialize in helping clients who face disabilities, life-threatening diseases, or a social problem, such as inadequate housing, unemployment, substance abuse, or domestic conflict (though you don’t need to be facing one of these issues to seek help from a social worker).
Social workers are trained to not just focus on the person they’re working with and their mental and emotional health, but also the environment contributing to that person’s well-being, explains Liz Morrison, LCSW, a Manhattan-based psychotherapist and owner of Liz Morrison Therapy. “We provide therapy but we can also help with other resources, like connecting patients with other providers in the community to help influence better outcomes.”
A social worker’s areas of specialty in talk therapy will depend on where they received their training and what modality they’re trained in, according to Morrison.
They vary by state, but generally to become licensed a social worker must have first earned a master of social work degree, log many hours of clinical experience and supervised training, and complete the licensure exam.
Where They Work Social workers are employed by schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, seniors’ centers, private practices, prisons, military, corporations, and in public and private agencies, according to Morrison.