Earning your LCSW can be a lengthy and daunted process; however, it is enriching. Today I will give you a brief overview of some of the steps that I took to apply for the LCSW process during COVID- 19 in the state of NJ. Some of the information applies to other states; however, jurisdiction does things differently.
The two components of completing the LCSW are the 3000 clinical hours and the ASWB exam hours. A total of 1920 of the LCSW hours are face to face and 1080 time spent in supervision.
The first step is to make sure that you find a supervisor, preferably one that will supervise you for free, and a supervisor who has an LCSW and not an LPC or LMFT. Several LCSW clinicians who are directors/managers provide their services for free to give back to the social work community. It is highly likely and inexpensive to seek a supervisor that already works in your agency. You can also supplement your hours by working part-time/evenings or full time as an IIC (intensive in community counselor) with an agency. They are a dime a dozen in any state.
The applicant’s responsibility is to verify that their supervisor has completed the required 20 hours to achieve their certification and have been an LCSW for three years.
The next step I took was to request permission from the NJ social work examiner (on the NJ consumer affairs website) to take the ASWB exam while I was completing my supervision hours. The ASWB exam is 4 hours long…yikes, 170 questions and, the cost is $260. The ASWB has a practice exam similar to the real exam for $85(highly recommended, read the rationales). You are aware of the exam process if you currently are an LSW. You will need to apply preapproval to take the ASWB LCSW exam by submitting proof that you have successfully completed the academic requirements, earning a master’s degree in social work from an accredited university. Again, this is the process I took. Some of the steps are interchangeable.
I recommend taking the exam during completing the clinical hours in case you must retake the exam. You will need to wait 90 days; there is an exception if your Job depends on the license, you will need documentation from your place of employment or immediate manager stating such. You will also need to repay the $260 fee and reregister with the ASWB on their website or call. After registering, you will wait a day or two to receive a link to register on the Pearson Vue website to schedule the exam at a Pearson location near you. You can take the exam in any state despite your jurisdiction. For instance, if you are registered as a NJ LSW and wants to be an LCSW, you can schedule to take the exam while you are on vacation in Miami at a Pearson VUE location in that area…I took my exam in NY. However, if you want to change your NJ license to another state …that is a different story.
The proposed plan of supervised clinical experience
Start working on your proposed supervision of plan. Remember, there are many ways to complete the LCSW steps, my method is not set-in-stone, but I highly encourage you to complete the plan and submit it to the Division of Consumer Affairs State Board of Social Work. If there is additional information needed, the board will communicate that to you versus submitting both the proposed plan and the LCSW application at the end of finishing your clinical hours only to find out that that additional information is needed, thus delaying the process. Remember that the board only meets once per month. In this step, you will submit your supervisor’s credential, that is, the certificate, their resume.
Another important step that sometimes gets overlooked is making sure that your job description meets the clinical requirement. If it does not, you will be notified when you submit your proposed plan of supervised clinical hours, and you should submit your job description along with the information afro mentioned for your supervisor. You may reach out to your HR department if you feel that your job description on paper does not reflect the skills you perform daily at work, they may be able to adjust it or if you need to find another agency to supervise you…. now is the time to know. I have seen a college almost change career due to finishing her hour and was denied because her agency job description was not clinical enough” I recommend that you submit the supervisor’s certificate, resume and, a copy of their LCSW certificate along with your documents.
Duration: The process took me two years, and it can take from two to four years from the date of completion to finish it.
How to document the hours: Create a word or an excel document with columns for the clients’ initial, the theme hours, and the amount of time that you spend during the 1:1 session. You can use in your documentation log are assessment, case reviews, consultation, crisis counseling, treatment planning. The NASW-NJ Chapter has a sample documentation log on their website, or you can create your own. Here is a sample documentation log that I used:
Submission of the LCSW application…YAYY: The supervisor should complete pages 13 and 14; the applicant is responsible for notarizing the application (2 pages). Your supervisor may choose to type a one-page summary of why they think you should be granted the LCSW license, it is not mandatory, but it won’t hurt. Remember to submit the application with your ASWB exam scores. The application can be submitted via email.
Finally, after you have accumulated all the hours, sit back and relax. The process after submission took close to a month for me to receive a license number by email. You can check the social work examiner’s website for the meeting dates as a guide to when you may receive a response.