Insights for MSW’s becoming CSWA’s

As we move through the final Oregon fake-outs of Spring sun mixed with Winter weather warnings, I’m thinking about all the grad students looking at their final term of classes before embarking into the new frontier of becoming professionals in their fields. As exciting and celebratory as ending grad school feels, I also remember the looming abstract idea of interviewing, test taking, and the general jumping through hoops required to move into the next phase of being a new clinician. Looking back through this year, here are 5 things I wish I knew in my final term of grad school:

1.     It can take 3-5 months to get your CSWA application processed. 

Due to bureaucratic silliness that you can read more about here, it is common to not have your CSWA application and supervision plan approved for about 3 months, sometimes longer. This means that you won’t be able to begin seeing clients for 3-5 months after you’ve been hired. When you’re interviewing be sure to ask your potential employer what their plan is for the wait time and if there is work that you can do while you wait. 

2.     The Supervision Plan and Rules and Laws Exam are honestly super easy and you should do them ASAP. 

To submit your CSWA application you need to complete a Supervision Plan and the Rules and Laws Exam. You don’t need a supervisor to work on the exam and it’s open book so I’d do that ASAP. The Supervision Plan isn’t complex so once you have a supervisor fill it out and get it in.

3.     QHMP-R is approved fast and can get you clearance to see clients while you wait for your CSWA. 

Now be sure to clear this all with your future practice and billing person but an option to explore is getting your Qualified Mental Health Professional – Registrant (QMHP-R) and applying for Single Case Agreements to accept insurance. With your QMHP-R you can also begin seeing private pay folks. Apply for your QMHP-R here.

4.     Writing your clinician profile is a whole thing. 

Helpful advice I received was 1) Shop around for a therapist on Psychology Today. Notice what makes you feel drawn in and interested in a profile, and notice what gives you the ick. 2) Write to your ideal client. You don’t need to be palatable to every person who scrolls through your profile. Speak to your values and strengths and let like-minded people see their values reflected in your approach (or not!). 

5.     Doing intake assessments, diagnosis, and treatment plans for a flood of brand new clients all at once is a wild welcome to being a clinician!

In retrospect, the thing I wish I had done more was to ask for help. Grad school gives you some tools for this but ultimately not every therapy space approaches notes, intakes, and diagnosis the same way. Because it feels like such a foundational part of the job I had some shame about my confusion but I truly believe there is a good amount of hand-holding that needs to be done as your brain works to retain and translate information in these new systems. Thankfully you only have to move through this learning curve once.