A healing sanctuary 


What is the Difference Between A Social Worker and Clinical Counsellor?

Social workers and clinical counsellors are both mental health professionals who are trained to help individuals and families cope with personal difficulties and overcome challenges. However, there are certain differences between the two professions, particularly when it comes to their specific approach to counselling practice.

One main difference between social workers and clinical counsellors is their educational background. Clinical counsellors typically have a degree in clinical counselling. Clinical counsellors focus on helping individuals address specific psychological challenges, such as depression or anxiety. They seek to understand the root cause of a client’s mental health problems and work towards helping individuals develop coping mechanisms to manage and overcome these issues

Social workers in private practice typically have a graduate degree in social work and are licensed and regulated by a provincial college of social workers. Social workers are trained to assess situation through social systems prism, working with individuals and families to understand and address social, economic, and environmental factors that may be contributing to their mental health challenges. They focus on the social impact that various factors can have on a person’s life and work with clients to come up with individualized solutions to address those challenges.

For example, when we are born, we are born into our first social system – our family. As we grow older, we create different circles of friends, we become members of our communities, work networks and beyond. In our counseling work, we take into consideration all the systems a person belongs to and explore ways those system may provide support and resources, along with possible challenges and barriers in a person’s life. By doing so, we will be identifying and naming systemic discrimination for what it is, as opposed to, putting all the responsibility on the individual.

On a practical level, some of the insurance benefit providers cover therapy sessions with social workers. Call your plan provider to inquire about coverage for a Registered Social Worker (RSW). In addition to that, RSW services are a deductible expense through Canada Revenue Services.

Overall, while both professions have specific areas of expertise and treatment approaches, they both seek to improve the well-being of individuals and families through personalized counselling practice. Depending on an individual’s specific needs, social workers and clinical counsellors can both play an important role in providing support and guidance towards healing and recovery.


Author: Ira Yakubovitz, Registered Social Worker
Edited with OpenAI,  July 27, 2023

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