"You don't have to think about doing the right thing. If you're for the right thing, then you do it without thinking."
~ Maya Angelou

October 18, 2011

The License

I am going to put this out there in the most objective, positive, and honest way I can.  Furthermore, this is not an attack or any form of disrespect to those in my field that are licensed, or use it in a beneficial way to help others change for the better.  We are all adults who can make our own decisions and choices regarding our careers, and I respect that for others, and myself as well  The writing that follows is from my heart and I am fully content with expressing it. 

For some time now I have struggled with the process and purpose of the LCSW, exam, and what it represents.  In my field (as I have come to know) often you are influenced or expected (based on opportunities available and requirements from employers) to obtain an LCSW.  It seems in the recent years the license is required much more than years before for many opportunities in the field.  You can look at the LCSW as a consumer liability, meaning it is required by the state in order to protect the consumer.  For example, if you are a social worker who chooses to practice “therapeutic” social work where you have clients that pay for your service then you must be licensed in order to provide this type of service.  It is your responsibility as a provider, and you are liable for the service you are providing per state regulations.  I don’t have a problem with that if you choose to go into private practice and/or are providing clinical/psychiatric therapeutic services (i.e. community based agencies, in/out patient psychiatric care, etc.) for those in need.  In  other capacities employers/systems now want their social workers (i.e. in roles of supervision, education, administration) to have their license as well.  My issue at hand is that the license does not really validate competency or effectiveness as a social worker.  Based on my experience and observation, I have crossed paths with many licensed social workers who honestly are not really good social workers and do not represent the LCSW in a positive manner.  It is almost as if they strive to accomplish getting their license, and then once they get it, often they don’t really apply it to what it is meant to represent, or they have stopped evolving, growing, learning, and all and everything that goes into being a competent and effective social worker.  Please note this is not a generalization.

So, where do I fit in?  Let me explain, and hopefully I can help those who continue to challenge me with “you have to get your license” understand that I am not being oppositional, negative, or difficult by not choosing to get my license.  For someone like myself who chose a career in social work because of their  exposure to, and experience of challenge, pain,and suffering I was not motivated by the expectation(s) of the career and others in the helping field. The reality that has influenced my decision to pursue a career in social work, that in itself truly shaped my lens and provided me with the insight and understanding that allows me to see and feel the true root of Social Work (helping others change for the better). Therefore, the desire to become a social worker and get into the field begins from within, a very deep personal place.  The formal training that includes the classroom to the community, and every other amazing learning experience that comes from true learning and understanding is needed as well, something that I embraced and truly digested.  I understand you need all of this not only to learn the practice, but if you decide to get licensed, you have to get through the hoops to complete the requirements to even be eligible to take the exam.  I have met all of these requirements (MSW, supervision hours, required pre-requisite classes and filing with the Board of Behavioral Sciences) and am eligible to take the exam.

The way I see the LCSW exam is that it is not an experiential or objective exam, it’s not and if you don't understand that, or you struggle to accept that, then you struggle, and that means not passing. The exam is designed in a manner of deduction and ruling out the least correct to get to the correct, but the correct often isn't correct in your mind based on one’s own experience (personal and in the field) and that is often the conflict.  The "what if style questions or multiple guess" can get one frustrated, and if you become frustrated during an exam well then...  I know this because I have had this experience.  I chose not to study for the exam and only take it to stay eligible (something that will expire after a one year period, meaning you would have to start all over with the requirements post completing your MSW).  Per the Board of Behavioral Sciences you can take the exam as many times as you want until you pass it, so what does that mean?  I missed passing by less than 12 points and remember I didn't study for it.  Most of the content is understood if you have been practicing in the field, and the information that is not its just studying and memorization.  Really your biggest learning objective is to learn and know how to take the exam.  This is not true learning.  Furthermore, once you pass the exam and become licensed you are not responsible to diagnose, that's for the Medical Doctors, and if you are a social worker who is responsible for diagnostic explanation (i.e. for client insurance purposes) often you are reaching out for your DSM IV to consult.  As social workers providing service(s) to those in need, we are responsible to identify their stressors, negative behavior, and dysfunction, understand it, and then treat it.  The way I see it the MSW carries more weight then getting licensed...

I understand that many feel that an LCSW equates to a social workers competency, expertise, and success.  Hopefully I have provided a different understanding that many social workers embrace.  I can't say that I will never be licensed, but I can tell you that I am more than likely to get my license when I believe in it.  I am the LCSW in every way.  I am Listening Compassion Sensitivity Wisdom!  If I am unable to gain opportunities based on not being licensed then I can accept that.  However, it will not be because of my competency, expertise, skill set, or abilities as a social worker.  I got this, I know it, and those that have seen me practice can validate it as well.  With that being said, I am (fully aware of and) excited to continue to learn and grow as a social worker!  I guess there is no mystery behind the fact that I have been a lifelong Raiders football fan, a team run by the late Al Davis who often was interpreted as a Rebel, but honestly a man with high integrity and great respect who did it his way.  Thanks for letting me digress and explain my take.  It’s all good!

 Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.
Oscar Wilde

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