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Louisiana requires social workers to be licensed. The requirement is not limited to clinical social work. The state recognizes multiple levels of social work licensure, some quite similar to each other, others very different. The Registered Social Worker (RSW) is the lowest level of licensing. Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and Certified Social Worker (CSW) are similar credentials. An LMSW, however, has passed an examination that a CSW has not yet passed. A social worker will need to move from CSW to LMSW status in order to begin accruing the Board-approved hours needed for licensure at the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) level.
State law outlines scope of practice for RSW, LMSW, and LCSW. The LCSW is a clinical license. Social workers who hold the LCSW are allowed to provide psychotherapy. Moreover, LCSWs are qualified for both independent and private practice. LMSWs and CSWs need to be under supervision when they provide psychotherapy. LMSW and CSW roles may include various diverse activities, among them, addiction services and program development.
The social work scope of practice includes many activities that are acceptable from the RSW level on, including supportive counseling, information and referral, advocacy, community organization, and even program or policy administration.
Overview of Licensing Requirements
The RSW is awarded on the basis of education. It is dependent on holding a social work degree at the bachelor’s level. However, an individual with a master’s degree in social work is also allowed to hold a license at this level. Degree programs are to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, or CSWE. Graduates of international programs, though, can be considered for licensure if their program is found equivalent by the CSWE. (The CSWE has its own equivalency determination service.)
The CSW and LMSW have higher educational standards: a master’s degree. Again, the degree is to come from a CSWE-accredited program (See: Master’s of Social Work Programs in Louisiana). The LMSW is dependent on passing the Masters level examination, offered by the Association of Social Work Boards.
The CSW cannot be held permanently. It is, in a sense, a temporary license, though Louisiana allows a person to hold it longer than many states: three years. A CSW will need to make one examination attempt within six months of licensure and at least one a year thereafter. The candidate will incur fees each time. The ASWB allows candidates to attempt the exam again after just a 90-day wait period. A candidate who does not pass the exam in three years is allowed to seek the RSW.
The LCSW is the highest license (discounting a supervisor credential that can be pursued only by experienced LCSWs). The foundation for the LCSW is the same as it is for the LMSW: a master’s degree. However, the social worker will need to complete a period of supervised practice. The prospective LCSW will need to pass a higher examination. The Clinical exam is also offered by the ASWB.
Supervision Requirements for Social Workers who Perform Psychotherapy
An LMSW will progress to LCSW only after accruing 5,760 total hours of post-graduate social work experience. Of these, 3,840 hours must be under Board-approved supervision. Clinical supervision will be provided by a Licensed Clinical Supervisor-Board Approved Supervisor (LCSW-BACS).
Notably, any psychotherapy performed by an LMSW or CSW must be under the supervision of a clinical social worker, though not necessarily one who has the supervisor designation. The state distinguished between agency-level supervision and supervision that is required for licensure at the clinical level.
There are cases where it will be necessary to contract with someone outside the agency to obtain the necessary supervision.
A CSW or LMSW who is providing psychotherapy will need at least two hours of supervisory sessions a month; a session will be somewhere between 30 minutes and two hours.
The LCSW is dependent on receiving at least 96 total hours of supervision.
An LMSW who is providing clinical services is generally required to be a regular employee. An exception is made for contract work done for governmental entities.
The Application Process
The application process is online. Applications can be accessed from the website of the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners (https://www.labswe.org/index.cfm/license/apply).
It may expedite the process to begin the application before the degree is conferred. Application review takes place at Board meetings. According to the student handbook, the Board sometimes gives conditional approval to an applicant pending receipt of final transcript. Other required documents will need to be in by the meeting deadline.
A person must submit an application each time he or she applies for a new social work credential. The application fee is $53 at the RSW level, $78 at the LMSW level, and $103 at the LCSW level. The CSW is granted when the Board approves an LMSW who is pending examination; there is not a separate application.
Official transcripts are required.
An applicant at the advanced level will submit employment verification from every Louisiana employer that he or she worked for while licensed as an LMSW.
A fingerprint-based criminal background check is required for licensure at any level. In the cases of applicants with criminal history, the Board will use a number of factors to determine fitness for licensure.Endorsement
Louisiana can endorse social workers from states that have equivalent standards. They should apply by endorsement. The Board recommends including a copy of the licensing statutes (https://www.labswe.org/page/application-information).
Louisiana social workers are under the jurisdiction of the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners (labswe.org). The Board can be reached by telephone at (225) 756-3470 or by email at ‘socialwork at labswe.org’. The student handbook outlines steps to licensure (https://www.labswe.org/page/application-information). It was updated in March of 2018.