Answer: Yes / No. The majority of programs that focus on counseling are actually online MSW programs with a clinical social work concentration that have a sub-specialization in children, youth and family counseling.
Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) who work primarily with children and families provide a combination of social services and mental health support to their clients. For example, they may help families find the government support that they need (such as food stamps or child care benefits), while also diagnosing and treating clients’ mental, emotional and behavioral disorders as they face certain challenges such as poverty, divorce, or substance abuse struggles. LCSWs use advanced assessment and evidence-based intervention techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Problem Solving Therapy, and Psychotherapy to treat their patients and clients.
The majority of MSW programs offer one of two concentrations (although others do exist): advanced generalist or clinical social work practice. While both types of programs include coursework in individual and group counseling, clinical social work programs typically have more focused curricula on micro social work compared to advanced generalist programs. In addition, some clinical social work programs allow students to further specialize in children, youth and family counseling (see table below). These sub-specializations typically have more advanced coursework on identifying and addressing mental, emotional, and social problems among children and within the family unit.
(For a full list of online MSW programs with a clinical social work concentration, see our online LCSW degree programs page.)
Accredited MSW Programs vs. Masters Programs in Counseling or Clinical Psychology
Master’s degrees in counseling or clinical psychology can also prepare individuals to provide therapy to children and families. However, these types of programs differ from MSW programs in that they generally do not train students to help clients find and use social support systems within their community, as counselors and clinical psychologists generally focus exclusively on diagnosis and therapy. For example, while a clinical psychologist might identify and treat a child’s depression and anxiety, licensed clinical social workers may provide similar therapy, while also assisting their clients in addressing such challenges as child custody battles, incidents of child abuse or neglect, and finding resources to combat poverty.
Coursework in Clinical Social Work MSW Programs with a Specialization in Child and Family Counseling
Accredited clinical social work MSW programs with a specialization in children, youth, and family counseling typically train students in such areas as social work policy, human behavior and psychology, and the principles of clinical practice, while also providing in-depth coursework on supporting children, youth, and families.
Sponsored Online MSW Program
For the majority of these programs, the curriculum is divided into a set of core courses that cover certain social work fundamentals, and a set of concentration courses that cover the area of work that students would like to pursue post-graduation. Thus, in addition to foundational courses in human behavior, social work policy, and psychological diagnosis and treatment, accredited online MSW programs that focus on child and family counseling typically have advanced classes that specifically address child and family issues. While specific course titles and content may vary across programs, online clinical social work MSW programs with a specialization in child and family counseling may include classes such as:
- Advanced Family Dynamics and Therapy: Understanding family dynamics and how healthy relationships develop within a family unit. Common conflicts that arise within the family unit and how they can be addressed holistically. The principles and essential methods of family and marital counseling, including relationship assessment and conflict mediation/resolution.
- Clinical Practice for Adolescents: Common psychological, developmental, and social issues that adolescents face, and how the clinical social worker can support youth who struggle with such challenges. How to help adolescents develop effective action plans to accomplish their goals and address their challenges at school and within their families and social groups.
- Policy, Planning and Research in Family and Youth Settings: How government policies affect families and child development, and the role the government should play in the maintenance of the family unit. The government resources that are available to parents and children, and how social workers can help clients apply for and receive the government support they need.
- Identifying and Treating Child Trauma: The different types of trauma that children may experience, including child abuse, neglect, bullying, school violence, and family tragedies. How the clinical social worker can provide psychological support and address such mental and emotional issues as depression and anxiety. How to help families (and if applicable, school personnel) plan and implement effective interventions that help children overcome emotional, social, and psychological challenges.
More FAQs about Online MSW Programs
- FAQ: Are there any one year online MSW programs?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs for BSW students?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs for non-BSW students?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs that do not require the GRE?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs that have multiple start dates?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs that start in the Spring?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs with a trauma concentration?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs with asynchronous instruction
- FAQ: Are there any two year online MSW programs?
- FAQ: Can you get an MSW without a BSW?
- FAQ: Is Walden University’s online MSW program accredited?
- FAQ: MSW vs. LCSW
- FAQ: MSW vs. MSSW vs. MSSA
- FAQ: What are the GPA requirements for online MSW programs?
- FAQ: What does it mean if an online MSW program uses a cohort model?
- FAQ: What is an advanced generalist online MSW program?
- FAQ: What is the difference between micro, mezzo and macro social work?
- FAQ: What is the difference between online, campus, hybrid, and distance learning MSW programs?
- FAQ: Where do licensed clinical social workers work?