Human Services versus Psychology curricula

Discussion in 'Nursing and medical-related degrees' started by Longwaytogo, Nov 1, 2005.

  1. simon

    simon New Member

    In fact, many social workers who start private practices are not able to sustain these businesses due to inordinate competition for clients from psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians.
  2. David Williams

    David Williams New Member

    FWIW, here's some musings in no particular order.

    The MSW is a strong credential and looking back if I had it to do over again I might have stayed in social work if protective services hadn't proven so unpleasant. I'm glad he does it but I don't know how Jack stays in that game year after year.

    If I really did have it to do all over I'd take my BS in physician's assistant studies. It offers a good career on its own and would serve as a great baseline for all manner of graduate study.

    The only point where I found myself to be at a disadvantage in not having a BS in psychology was in preparing for the licensure exam. Some of the content was really obscure.

    Its very common to crossover into psychology from other disciplines. I've had students from nursing (RN), teaching, social work, recreation therapy, business persons, english majors, clergy, a lawyer, retired military, speech pathology among others.

    Social casework, IIRC (this is from decades old history of social welfare coursework), emerged as a form of psychotherapy early in the 20th C. Another noteworthy Chicago connection I recall was Saul Alinsky. I think the University of Chicago awards an MSSW v. the MSW. At the time I went to social work school many programs stratified students into three tracks: casework, group work or community organization.

    Most psychology internships are funded. Some, like the military, above 30K. I went to the APPIC website where I was able to gather the following. 597 intrernships are offered this year. Only 65 offer a stipend of less than 15K (no way other than pore through the database to access the unfunded) and 49 offer stipends of 25+K. My guess is completely unfunded sources are mostly informal arrangements with an individual psychologist. Some states permit supervised experience in lieu of an organized internship.

    I think if you can handle undergraduate calculus you can make it through the statistics courses required of applied (clinical, counseling, school) psychology programs. I don't think I'd care to tie into the statistics required of a program in experimental or biostatistics but the coursework in inferential and desciptive statistics along with research design and methodology wasn't that bad. I didn't find statistics to be anywhere near as grueling as pure math.

    Psychometric assessment, if you have the skills and interest, can provide a good living. Third party payers do avoid the psychometric assessment CPT codes although niche markets exist; neuropsychology for one, especially for those who enjoy testifying.

    Nosborne's comments about social work and emotional IQ made me think of an article I read years ago by a psychologist who went on to med school. He identified patterns of information acquistion and management as different. As a psychologist he was taught to start with a question and research the literature which had the effect of widening the circle. As a physician he was taught to start start wide and drill down to a differntial diagnosis. Information was often anecdotally acquired; say, from the chief resident on grand rounds. Looking in the rearview mirror of my career (objects look closer, don't they?) my recollection is that I was differentially reinforced, I won't say taught, to attend to emotional IQ in social work and differntially reinforced for attention to data and theory in psychology.

  3. Longwaytogo

    Longwaytogo New Member

    David Williams,

    I enjoyed your historical background information on social work. See, I'm such a newbie. And thank you for the implied compliment regarding math skills. In both my former and current academic pursuits, I have generally observed that I can employ some cute Cartesian anaylsis to improve my scholastic performance for every discipline EXCEPT the actual math class work. Now, why is that? I'm not a math person, so why can I "see it" when it's applied to economics, psychology, etc...?

    Jack Tracey - I soooo hear ya! I loved your garage analogy - yeppers, have started at least one business, using that exact same thinking. I really doubt this is related to only the profession we are discussing.
  4. PatsFan

    PatsFan New Member

    I think it is true that all mental health professions, i.e. psychiatrists, psychologists, Psychiatric clinical nurse specialists, social works, etc. receive training that is unique to their profession. In addition to training in psychotherapy psychiatrists are trained in medicince and prescribe medication. Psychologists are trained in testing and can prescribe medication in some states. Psychiatric clinical nurse specialists are medically trained and some can also prescribe medication.

    Social Work educators Hepworth and Larsen list 6 objectives of social work that suggest perhaps the uniqueness of the social work approach:

    1) Help people enlarge their competencies and increase theri problem-solving and coping abilities

    2) Help people obtain resources

    3) Make organizations responsive to people

    4) Facilitate interactions between individuals and others in their environment

    5) Influence interactions between organizations and institutions

    6) Influence social and environmental policy

    In addition to training in psychotherapy and assessment, social workers are trained to provide concrete services, advocacy and to bring about changes on the "macro level," i.e., to impact social policy. Services to oppressed groups are also an emphasis of social workers.

    Despite the differences between these mental health disciplines, clinicians from each of these professions work side by side in mental health clinics providing psychotherapy to clients. If you were a fly on the wall observing them offering therapy, these differences would often not be evident. Psychotherapy is psychotherapy. Some clinicians use a psychodynamic approach, others a cognitive approach, etc. That was the point I was trying to make.

    I hear some people oversimplify the differences between the professions sometimes. I hear people say that psychiatrists PRIMARILY prescribe medication and social workers link people up with services, etc. I think it's important to recognize the differences in training, but also the similarities.

    Good luck with your educational endeavors, longway. . .
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2005
  5. Longwaytogo

    Longwaytogo New Member

    Thanks PatsFan, for more information to ponder.
  6. Jack Tracey

    Jack Tracey New Member

    Simon is right. There is competition for clients within the private practice world. It is one of the factors that is least considered by people who move into this business. Quite often people make this move as soon as they are able, meaning as soon as they receive their professional licenses. What they don't realize is that while they may be licensed by the state to practice, this doesn't mean that they are automatically given a spot on the insurance panels. In short this means that the insurance companies won't agree to pay you. You are not on "the list." This is not because they think you're a bad Clinician. It's simply because they already have enough Clinicians on their list. They just don't need another one. Beyond that there is the issue of referrals. If you are a newly minted Clinician, why would someone buy your services rather than the Clinician who's got 10, 15, 20 years of experience? Relatively inexperienced Clinicians who enter private practice often sit by their phones asking, "Why doesn't someone call me?" The better question is, "Why should they call you? Why not call one of those other more experienced Therapists in town. No one knows you or how good you might be. People ask around, no one has heard of you. They answer to this is business skills. Marketing. Selling yourself and your services. A LOT of Therapists just aren't good at this and they don't want to spend a lot of time doing the sorts of things that are necessary to get a private practice off the ground. To rub a bit of salt in the wound, while you're sitting there waiting for the phone to ring, you are paying the phone bill and the rent on the office space, and the office furniture and the business cards and the newspaper ads, etc. A lot of money is going out and very little is coming in. It gets old rather fast.
  7. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Ceiling on salaries

    Beginning salaries for lawyers have skyrocketed in the past few years. Even in government, they've easily doubled since I started, in 1986.

    You can't really generalize. A large firm partner can literally expect to make half a million dollars a year. A mid grade federal government lawyer seems to make in the $80s. Us career state government lawyers do far worse, often hovering in the mid to late $60s. Even so, it would be a vey comfortable living in most of the country were it not for the enormous debt load most law students accumulate in loans. And it is a more-or-less 40 hour week with benefits, paid leave, and a good retirement package...

    There really IS no "ceiling" on what an ambitious lawyer can earn. But believe me, the higher the earnings, the harder you must work.

    I would never recommend going into the law for the money, though. There are easier and cheaper ways to get rich.
  8. decimon

    decimon Well-Known Member

    Re: Ceiling on salaries

  9. David Williams

    David Williams New Member

    Nor am I although by the end of the sequence I came to enjoy the research coursework. I could just never simply read the text and "get" the content. Conceptual mastery came by doing the problems, often more than were assigned. I almost failed my junior year of high school; by taking geometry and a course I can't remember in summer school I passed.
  10. fortiterinre

    fortiterinre New Member

    "Hanging out a shingle" is my joking metaphor for simply being able to see and bill clients as an independent professional; rereading my post I see it implies the opposite of what I really mean! I don't know of any LCSW who simply drops everything and starts a private practice in a rented office and makes enough to cover his/her overhead; this is always risky, especially for people who are not natural entrepreneurs.

    But I am always edified by social work administrators and executives who make above average salaries, but still take time for a small private practice. I do know lots of LCSW's who find they can get enough private clients so that they only work PT at a "day job," and lots of LCSW's who are willing to see private clients at home. I know one hospital LCSW who is down to 2 days a week at the medical center, because she remodeled her house and has a home office right by her front door. A lot of agencies also contract out brief treatment to their staff LCSW's, so this is a way to have a small private practice with your day job doing everything from booking the appointments to providing the office space. I just scratched out some figures, and an LCSW who picked up even a couple of brief tx appointments a day at my old agency would have made at least $17,000 more on top of the annual salary--and this was 10 years ago.

    So to correct myself thoroughly, the LCSW is often in a unique position not to need to hang out a shingle! But it seems to me that the LCSW who has no student loans, a balanced and rewarding day job, and lots of opportunities for private clients is living well indeed.
  11. fortiterinre

    fortiterinre New Member

    Re: Ceiling on salaries

    Thanks, nosborne, I found the link below which lists "entry-level attorneys" having a median of $50,000 ($49,000 in my town of Chicago) with a personal injury median of $60,000 for 2000 billable hour requirements. Government lawyers for the Federal Trade Commission start at GS11, etc. I think you are absolutely right that ambitious and tireless lawyers can make a lot of money--I also came across a boutique firm that starts all first year associates at $125,000 with ample bonus opportunities! I am considering law school at least as much as social work, but I fear the lifestyle tradeoffs far more than the financial ones.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2005
  12. Longwaytogo

    Longwaytogo New Member

    Just an update for those who may be curious: I have just spoken with someone at Old Dominion University's Psychology Department regarding the department's policy on acceptance of two (College of Education) Human Service courses: Human Service Methods and Research & Evaluation in Human Services, in lieu of the two required (College of Science) Psychology courses with similar titles.

    Well, as I thought, it sounds as though this is not a possibility.

    I was told that applicants to ODU's graduate school of Psychology are expected to have the (4 hour) research and methods courses including laboratories, plus an additional 9 hours of coursework in psychology. I can attain those 9 hours in psychology through distance learning, but not the specific courses with labs, so were I to continue as a Human Services major (as I am currently), I would not meet ODU's graduate psychology school admission prerequisites.

    This makes me wonder about the wisdom of going for any B.S. Psychology completely via distance. I have to question whether I will run into this same issue at grad school admission time with an online B.S. Psychology degree. (Maybe it's just this particular school.).
  13. Longwaytogo

    Longwaytogo New Member

    Updated update! Further discussion with faculty advisors in psychology has yielded a few more nuggets: if a student's final educational level is Masters level, it was suggested that the Human Service degree would be preferrable for the Masters in Counseling! That degree is not offered by the psychology department at ODU but rather is underneath the College of Education.

    I checked it out, and what I then realized is the CATCH-22 which drove me to start this whole thread! I may have run into a snafu with this particular school: ODU's Masters in Counseling is a 48 hour program. In the State of Virginia and several other states this kind of Masters degree does not meet licensure requirements for the LPC. It would only permit one to work in an agency.

    At my rather advanced age, I'm really looking for the kind of program that won't "dump me out" 12 credits shy of the mark, so I would then need to shop around for another post-graduate level program (such as is offered at marymount university) to put me on the licensure track - most of those are 20 to 30 additional hours. "Do it right the first time" comes to mind when you are almost a senior citizen!

    Another reason I believe I'm going to have to switch programs pretty soon is that ODU's Masters in Psychology is highly oriented towards experimental research, whereas I'm seeking a clinical/counseling school.

    Comments: sure appreciated!
  14. fortiterinre

    fortiterinre New Member

    Longwaytogo, you are a very savvy student! I think we forgot one of the most important distinctions between human service, psychology, and counseling programs--which one will get you licensed as a therapist!

    I looked at some of the websites of the places you referenced, and to my surprise some of them openly say "Do the 48 hour program if you have any interest in being licensed, then do 12 more hours." My best friend graduated from the 33 hour, one year MA in psychology program at Concordia University, River Forest, IL, which no longer meets licensure requirements as Illinois has moved up to 48 hours (and now also requires one year residency!). Whatever the degree is in, the most important thing is to be eligible for clinical licensure if you ever want to practice at the independent level. If I remember right, Liberty University now offers a 60 hour master's to meet these Virginia requirements. Good luck and thanks for the heads up.
  15. Longwaytogo

    Longwaytogo New Member

    With the feeling that this thread is nearing the end of its usefulness for folks, I want to pass on the ultimate word from the dean of the Graduate Psychology Dept. at ODU who was kind enough to email a response to my round of questions yesterday.

    In essence, "as far as I can recall we have never admitted a Human Service major to the graduate psychology program as our focus is heavily on experimental research." (He called B.S. Human Service majors "counseling majors" .....hmmmm, interesting.) He also suggested another state school program that may be a better fit for my objectives. He also confirmed that the human service courses would not in fact be allowed to substitute for the same kind of content in the pscyhology department. (Research methods, etc.)

    So, there you have it, folks. If the graduate department at the school I'm enrolled in won't even accept their own bachelors in human services, well, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

    I think I'll keep attempting to change my major to psychology, for the time being; it seems to be a more useful degree to have for graduate school aspirations.

    Fortiterinre, thanks for the kind words.
  16. Longwaytogo

    Longwaytogo New Member

    With the feeling that this thread is nearing the end of its useful life, I want to pass on the ultimate word from the dean of the Graduate Psychology Dept. at ODU who was kind enough to email a response to my round of questions yesterday.

    I paraphrase, "As far as I can recall, we have never admitted a Human Service major to the graduate psychology program. Our MS Psychology program is heavy on experimental research." (He referred to B.S. Human Service majors as "counseling majors" .....hmmmm, how interesting.) He then suggested a competing state university's program as a better fit for my objectives. Finally, he confirmed that human services coursework is not in fact accepted as a substitute for the similar-named courses of the pscyhology department. (Research methods, etc.) These courses may be transferred in if taken at another university's psychology department. I gather that did not include, for example, my local community college. Again, how interesting.

    So, there you have it, folks. If the graduate department at the school I'm enrolled in won't even accept their own bachelors in human services, well, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

    I think I'll keep attempting to change my major to psychology, for the time being; it seems to be a more useful degree to have for graduate school aspirations.

    Fortiterinre, thanks for the kind words.
  17. Longwaytogo

    Longwaytogo New Member

    Sheesh! Anybody else get "Page Not Available" when you post, then copy & paste your response to Wordpad or whatever and make a few changes, re-submit and it goes straight away. Two days later when you log back on, you see that you've submitted TWO posts? I'm seriously embarrassed. Well, nobody seems to be worried about this thread much, at this point. Just a first timer social gaff.

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