Pursuing Behavioral Health Services

Providers of behavioral health counseling or psychotherapy have diverse educational and professional backgrounds. Clinical psychologists and licensed clinical social workers are two separate behavioral health professions, each with their own areas of competency. Choosing to work with one over the other is often a matter of personal preference, as well as the client’s individual needs

Many forms of behavioral health practice, including psychotherapy, counseling and diagnostic services, are regulated by state laws. In most states, individuals who provide these services must be licensed by the state. Behavioral health practitioners also need to be state-licensed to receive payments from insurance companies.

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is trained in behavioral health assessment, diagnosis and behavioral health interventions. An LCSW, in clinical practice, provides psychotherapy to assist clients in dealing with a variety health and behavioral health issues that impact daily living so that overall functioning can be improved.

A LCSW has a Masters Degree in Social Work and has studied research methods, human behavior, psychology, human development, behavioral health theories, evidence-based interventions, and ethics. In Tennessee, LCSWs are required to have at least two years of supervised clinical experience before being eligible to take the state licensure exam. LCSWs are also required to have fifteen hours of continuing education per year. An LCSW in Tennessee is able to practice independently.

Clinical psychologists are behavioral health practitioners with extensive training in the practice of behavioral health diagnosis and treatment. Clinical psychologists are licensed in the states in which they practice to diagnose and treat behavioral disorders through psychological testing and, when appropriate, counseling and psychotherapy.

Clinical psychologists must hold either be a Ph.D. in clinical psychology or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) degree. As part of her degree program, a student of clinical psychology will need to complete an internship. After graduation, she will also have to complete an additional year or two of supervised practice before she can be licensed to practice independently. Clinical psychologists are required to receive 20 hours of continuing education per year.

Determining the best resource for behavioral health services for your child requires knowing your options and determining the “goodness of fit” between your child and the treating therapist. The most important factor in choosing a therapist for your child is whether your child feels comfortable talking to this person. When needed, the benefits of behavioral health services are life changing.