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Torn Between MSW or Psychology Program

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Hi everyone,

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It is not my intention to put down any profession or discipline. I'm just confused and trying to seek advice. This may be long, so please bear with me.

I'm 32 years old, and have an undergrad degree in Psychology and a master's in environmental safety. I've worked in mental health for several years, and recently decided that I want to return to school to obtain a graduate degree in the human services field. My goal is to work as a therapist and one day have my own practice working with the adult population. I keep reading and hearing that it's best to become a LCSW rather than an LPC because an MSW degree is far more marketable, profitable and recognized as opposed to a master's in Mental Health or Clinical Psychology for example.

I've been accepted into an MSW program with a Micro concentration, which will begin this Fall. However, I'm having second thoughts. My main concern: Does the Social Work philosophy align well with my personal philosophy? Sometimes I get the impression that Social Work tends to, for the most part, "blame" the client's problems (like oppression or the government, etc.). I've come to understand (through my own hardships and life experiences and that of others') that looking at outside factors as the cause for our misfortunes keeps people from accessing their Higher Self, if you will. I guess you could say that I'm more into Positive Psychology. Rather than looking at how messed up the government is and perceiving ourselves as being oppressed, I believe it's important to take radical responsibility for our circumstances by looking within ourselves, and that focusing on the good in our lives will help transform the areas we are not happy about. This is all assuming a person has their basic needs met. I would never expect someone who is homeless or has nothing to eat to work on accessing their Higher Self.  But basically, I'm not sure that my personal values and outlook are consistent with those of the Social Work discipline. And so I wonder if the field of Psychology would be a better fit than the field of Social Work.

I'm torn because I've already been accepted into the MSW program and would have to wait about 6 months to get into a graduate psych program that's more than $10k more expensive than the MSW program. On one hand, I wonder if I'm simply mistaken about the Social Work discipline and judging it wrong. On the other, I wonder if I'd be making a mistake by getting my MSW versus a Psych degree. I know that an MSW program is more marketable and offers greater job security, but I want to make sure my values align with my field of study.  

My questions:

  1. Do you think that my values and beliefs are too different from the Social Work values and philosophy?
  2. Am I better off just waiting to apply to a Psychology program instead?
  3. Am I overthinking things?
  4. Should I go the MSW route and just make my practice what I want it to be (Positive Psychology approach)?

Thanks again for your time!

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Have you read the social worker code of ethics? I think variances in viewpoints exist in any field (for instance in psychology there are practitioners that have a behaviorist point of view and other who have a positive psychology point of view such as yourself, etc.) As long as you have no inherent issues with the code of ethics social workers abide by, the kind of practitioner you are once you become licensed is mostly up to you. 

And yes, if you are looking for a master's level licensure, the LCSW is typically more portable than an LPC. LCSWs also have the ability to bill Medicare, which LPCs cannot if I'm not mistaken.

Just a side-note, there are no license eligible psychology masters programs. Mental health counseling is a counseling degree so you want to look for CACREP accredited programs. The APA does not accredit MA psych programs.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey I can relate to not being sure about if MSW was a good fit, I'll tell you though my alternative would be MFT or PhD in clin psy, not LPC. I think you have a sort of stereotypical view of the MSW orientation. MSW is a CBT, strengths based, and systems based approach. When I say systems I mean some of that stuff you mention, like taking into account a persons community or neighborhood as being part of the puzzle. It is about identifying barriers that are preventing progress and helping them overcome them. None of that means you have to be anti government, anti police, anti white, or that you must vote a certain way. You are supposed to advocate for your clients and help them by supporting causes that would provide them some social justice. That doesn't nevcessarily mean you go rally for open borders or vote for minority candidates because they are minorities, it means you assess how the population you choose to work with is under served or discriminated against or stigmatized and you do all you can within reason to help. Now that said, you will encounter people who are anti police, anti military, anti immigration, anti white, anti male, who are in these programs, and you will be in school with a mostly democrat or socialist  group, but that's ok even if it's outside your comfort zone. You gotta work with clients from all walks of life, with colleagues. I don't even know if this stuff applies to you, but for what it's worth, I say keep an open mind, you can do the MSW and follow the code of ethics while still being about empowerment and positive psych. I mean strengths based is like that too. I for one love that I had a good psych undergrad to support my MSW that I'm doing now. And the MSW is the best degree you can get, big scope of practice.

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