Clinical Mental Health Counseling Versus Social Work

While there is some overlap between clinical mental health counseling and social work, there are important differences in the services performed and the approaches taken to help clients.

The Role of a Clinical Mental Health Counselor

As a mental health counselor, you will typically work with clients to help them understand their emotions and cope with a specific set of problems. Consequently, your education and training will explore in depth the forces that drive human behavior as well as cultural factors that influence that behavior.

Because the counselor-client relationship is central to the therapeutic process, you must be aware of how your personal experiences and biases influence your behavior and worldview. While the educational focus for mental health counselors emphasizes clinical practice, you will also learn to implement outreach and advocacy interventions into your work with clients.

The Role of a Social Worker

Social workers may engage in counseling as one of the many services they perform for clients. Working in social service agencies, private practice, or hospitals, social workers might manage cases, connect clients to community services, or advocate for systemic change in the welfare system. Because of this broader range of duties, many social work degree programs will not explore psychotherapy in the same depth as counseling programs typically do.

Additional Information

To learn more about the opportunities you could pursue as a licensed counselor, visit our careers in counseling page.