Social Work Licensing-Illinois providing An alternative path

Social Work licensing is changing in Illinois where Gov. Pritzker signed an alternative path to clinical licensing that would offer an option to forgo the ASWB exam in exchange for completing an additional 3,000 hours of supervision that would make them eligible for a clinical license. This is for individuals who have failed the ASWB exam within 5 years of applying for this alternative pathway.

On the surface I think this is great. The ASWB’s licensing and clinical licensing exam has been shown to be inherently biased towards white, middle-class individuals, gatekeeping qualified social workers from obtaining a license if they fail the exam. In addition to its bias, the exam is often not practical in what is actually done outside of testing facilities, you study to take the test, not as much about the material. We know there is a learned component to becoming a good test taker, and many have never been taught these skills, creating an unjust method of licensing individuals who had the skills to do the job.

For these reasons, this is a great opportunity, and one that should be expanded upon, but I urge the NASW to contemplate other aspects of the inequality within this profession. For most social workers entering the profession, first placement jobs often don’t count towards clinical licensing, or there might not be a LCSW or other approved license to supervise for clinical practice. This creates a system where those who can afford to pay out of pocket to receive supervision outside of their employer can work towards those hours whereas others can’t. For many states, the only requirement for supervision is a LCSW, without any checks or requirements to ensure this person is providing quality supervision and if they even know how. Social workers have a right to know the person they’re paying can provide appropriate and ‘good’ supervision that is somewhat regulated. We have to address wide discrepancies in the field and that starts with unpaid internships, goes towards income inequality, licensing costs, touches reimbursement for tuition and supervision, understands that all social work involves clinical skills and gatekeeping jobs within the profession that count towards these hours and those that don’t create undue hardship on most.

We as a profession cannot continue making small changes that benefit those with privilege already while not addressing the full picture that forms the issue and extends requirements to those who may be at risk of being impacted by this system. Change needs to be comprehensive and across the board. Work towards national licensing systems and coverage across states. This is an important and positive step in Illinois, now let’s address the bigger issue and do so nationwide.

1 thought on “Social Work Licensing-Illinois providing An alternative path”

  1. Dayummmmm. This is an incredible take. Appreciate the forward thinking. Really makes me think about all other facets of life. I’m scheduled to take my exam in December ((in Michigan)) here’s to hoping it goes well 😊

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