Therapy FAQ

What Is an LCSW and Should You See One for Therapy?

Learn about LCSWs, licensed clinical social workers, who assess and treat mental health issues. Understand the differences between LCSWs, LMFTs, psychologists, and psychiatrists to choose the best therapist for your needs. LCSWs offer various therapy services and specialize in treating different mental health conditions.

therapist sean abraham By Sean Abraham, LCSW

Updated on May 08, 2024

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When you’re looking for a therapist who is the best match for you, it can be tricky to know which type to choose.

Next to the name of a provider, you may see abbreviations such as “LMFT,” “Psy.D.,” or “LCSW” – but what do these actually mean?

These abbreviations indicate someone’s credentials – their education, training, and licensing. In this article, we will learn about what an LCSW is, how it compares to other mental health professionals, and more.

Key Takeaways

1. LCSWs are licensed clinical social workers trained to assess and treat mental health issues
2. LCSWs provide counseling, supervise, consult, and oversee mental health programs
3. LCSWs offer various therapy modalities like CBT, DBT, EMDR, and exposure therapy
4. LCSWs specialize in treating specific mental health conditions and working with diverse groups
5. LCSWs follow an extensive career path with education, training, and licensing requirements

What is an LCSW?

LCSW, which stands for “licensed clinical social worker”, is a very common credential you may come across when seeking a therapist.

Licensed clinical social workers are trained to assess people’s mental health, diagnose mental health conditions, and provide treatment, making them a great choice for your therapy provider.

Here’s everything you need to know about licensed clinical social workers, and whether they may be the right type of therapist for you.

LCSWs vs. Other Mental Health Professionals

There is no one type of mental health professional that’s inherently “better” than another.

Rather, each type of mental health provider has their own unique skill sets and abilities to help people who are struggling with their mental health or life circumstances. The main differences lie in their education and training.

Aside from LCSWs, some other popular types of mental health professionals are:

Any of these types of mental health professionals, as well as LCSWs, can provide therapy.

If you’re looking for individual therapy to improve your mental health, your best bet may be an LCSW or a psychologist.

If you’re looking for a medical doctor who can provide therapy as well as prescribe medications, you may need a psychiatrist.

Lastly, if you’re looking for therapy for yourself and a partner, spouse, or other family members, an LMFT may be a better fit for you.

In some situations, it may be beneficial to work with more than one mental health professional.

For example, you may work on building coping skills and learning relaxation techniques with an LCSW while also seeing a psychiatrist for medication management. Every individual’s treatment plan will be different.

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Services Provided by LCSWs

LCSWs are qualified for various services. For example, they may:

In the context of mental health treatment for individuals, services vary from social worker to social worker – but in general, LCSWs are an excellent choice for a therapy provider.

“Therapy” is a very broad term, and LCSWs can have different specializations when it comes to the type of therapy they practice. Oftentimes, LCSWs will draw from various different therapy modalities, depending on what’s most helpful for the client.

Some common types of therapy an LCSW may provide are:

The options don’t stop there. Other less common types of therapy an LCSW may provide include:

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Furthermore, LCSWs may have a specialization when it comes to working with certain groups of people, or specific mental health conditions.

Some examples of groups of people are:

Some types of mental health condition specializations are:

When it comes down to it, whether someone is the right therapist for you will go far beyond their credentials. You want to make sure that:

Seeking out a therapist is the first step to making positive changes in your mental health.

Therapy is invaluable, and working with a mental health professional, including an LCSW, can truly change your life.

The Career Path and Academic Background of an LCSW

Licensed clinical social workers go through extensive education and training to earn their license and get the experience they need to learn how to best help others.

Some specific requirements may vary state by state for LCSWs, but the general path is about the same. If you’re interested in becoming an LCSW, you can check different state websites through this resource.

How to become an LCSW

  1. First, an LCSW must earn a Bachelor’s Degree. While the college major may be social work, it can also be something closely related to social work, such as psychology or sociology.
  2. Upon completion of a Bachelor’s Degree, an LCSW has to obtain a master’s degree in social work, known as an MSW degree. The school they earn the degree from must be accredited.
  3. After obtaining an MSW degree, a social worker must become licensed as a social worker – LSW. This involves taking a state licensing exam. Then, they need to meet a certain number of clinical hours. This can be around 3,500 hours –– more or less depending on the specific state’s guidelines. This experience is under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional and may include experience diagnosing patients, providing psychotherapy or counseling, determining treatment plans, conducting research, and more.
  4. Once an LCSW has training under their belt, they have to take their state’s licensing exams. This typically includes the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam and a Law and Ethics Exam.
  5. After passing these exams, an LCSW can begin practicing. Education doesn’t stop there, though. LCSWs must renew their license (as per state guidelines) by completing continuing education units. This ensures that a social worker is always following the correct clinical guidelines and is up to date on best practices.


Finding the perfect therapist for you doesn’t have to be difficult — you can find a therapist near you today on Grow Therapy.


  • LCSW is a specific type of therapy licensure that means Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

  • Licensed clinical social workers are trained to assess people’s mental health, diagnose mental health conditions, and provide treatment, making them a great choice for your therapy provider.

  • A few examples include: - Provide counseling or therapy - Consult for various businesses - Supervise LCSWs in training - Oversee mental health programs

  • Anyone seeking mental health services can see an LCSW for therapy. Those suffering with the following conditions are a few examples of those who can benefit: - Addiction - Anxiety disorders - Bipolar disorder - Depression - Eating disorders - Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - Personality disorders - Phobias - Post-traumatic stress disorder - Psychotic disorders

  • You can search Grow Therapy's marketplace to find an LCSW who is located in your area and accepts your insurance. Choose your filters, then browse the list of qualified professionals to find the best fit for your needs.

About the author
therapist sean abraham Sean Abraham, LCSW

Sean Abraham is a licensed clinical social worker who works with those who have struggled with substance use, depression, anxiety, loss, communication problems, student life, as well as other mental health concerns.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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