Alternatives to MSW?
September 5, 2010 5:48 PM   Subscribe

Please help me not screw up again and figure out how to get the education I need.

I went to college right out of high school, and ended up with a Theater Arts degree. I basically spent the 4 years partying, depressed, and completely confused about what I wanted to do. Five years later, I made a mistake and went back to school for an MFA in Acting. Really bad move. While the undergraduate degree was cheap and paid for, the graduate degree was financed with student loans that I'll probably be paying back for the rest of my life.

Since finishing grad school, and realizing I had no real desire to create a life around acting or theater, I've been lucky enough to find something I love and am good at - teaching yoga. I teach group classes, private clients on and off, new teachers in a teacher training program, and I do lots of volunteer work - teaching in a prison and a homeless shelter, women cancer survivors and other survivors of trauma. I've been doing this for 7 years.

I love what I do but have come to realize that I could serve people better, use more of my talents, and make a much better living if I could combine the yoga practices I teach with more traditional, talk therapy work. As I look back over my years in school, and my past more broadly, I honestly think that's the boat I missed - becoming a social worker.

There is no way in hell I can pay for a Social Work degree at this point. I don't have the money and can't take out any more loans. I have tried to understand what other avenues there may be to get valuable training and worthwhile certification in order to create this kind of practice. My life has been touched by addiction and I'm drawn to those challenges and issues, so I've thought of becoming a Substance Abuse Counselor, which I've heard can be done with less money and time, while still receiving good training. I've also considered staying within the yoga learning path I've been on for a while and completing a yoga therapy program and just figuring the rest out.

I'd really appreciate advice on how to earn meaningful qualifications without breaking the (very modest) bank.

For the record, I'm not suggesting that the huge commitment of a traditional Social Work degree is somehow not worth my trouble, or that I don't need the rigors of that type of training, I would love to do that, but it's not in the cards.

Thank you.
posted by lukievan to Education (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why don't you see if you can get a job with a local community college as a theater arts teacher and teach yoga on the side. Working in prisons is more complicated in the USA because it requires bidding on a contract to provide the service. I don't know much about government contracts.
posted by parmanparman at 5:51 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you able to take part-time courses in social work?

Do you want to be licensed, or do you just need the skills? The legal requirements for practicing as a therapist vary by state.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:15 PM on September 5, 2010

Im sure that you can get a pretty big scholarship. Check out individual schools and other orgs because your volunteer work and work sounds exceptional.
posted by anniecat at 6:50 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

You do have a couple options:

Anyone can see people under the pretense of mental health treatment as a "Life Coach".

You can also be a support role in treating substance abuse clients without any licensure. You will not be paid the same but, for what it's worth, licensed SA counselors don't make jack anyway.

A third option is to find a school that has masters level assitantships. My master's program hired one student to work the front desk at the counseling clinic. She was given 6 credits of tuition a semester and a decent stipend. Do a little research. If you're driven to do it, you'll find a way.

Also- why social work? Have you looked into being a licensed mental health worker or a licensed professional counselor?

Check out SPADA certification. I don't think it requires a license. Just hours and training in a substance abuse treatment environment.
posted by WhiteWhale at 8:18 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

To follow up on what Anniecat said--have you looked into getting a grant? I highly recommend the Foundation Center for grant-seekers. There are people and companies who will fund all kinds of things as long as you are willing to put in the extra work of coming up with a plan and proposing it convincingly in your application. Good luck.
posted by melancholyplay at 12:49 AM on September 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who responded. Great feedback.

A question for WhiteWhale: What am I missing? When I try to research becoming a licensed mental health worker or a licensed professional counselor, I only see these as options within the broader realm of social work degrees. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by lukievan at 6:58 PM on September 8, 2010

Whitewale appears to be referring to something like this SPADA program It stands for Specialty Program in Alcohol and Drug Abuse (SPADA). I didn't find many other programs by the exact same name. However, the program prepares students for two credentials, you might try looking under these names: Certified Advanced Addictions Counselor (CAAC) Credential and the Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) Credential.
posted by Librarygeek at 5:23 AM on September 9, 2010

Instead of thinking what degree you want to get, think about what licensure. Insurance companies don't care what it says on your diploma, they want to make sure the state you practice in has certified you to be a mental health professional. What can get tricky is each state determines what license/certification to award and what it's called. In Michigan, we have three options for the Master's level mental health therapist. Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Limited Licensed Psychologist (LLP) and an MSW. Each of these degrees will allow you to see clients under the profession of mental health treatment AND you can be reimbursed by many insurance companies. The diploma you get from the school could be a variety of different things from social work to community counseling. What really matters is the license you apply for with the state. Whatever program you choose should put you in the perfect position for a state license. If it doesn't, walk away.

Some more clarification:
Social work degree typically are divided into two tracks: a micro and a macro. The micro is designed for someone wanting to practice individual, family, or group counseling. This is someone that would practice psychotherapy. The macro track is used for people not interested in therapy but wanting to work for as a case worker, administrator, or doing a variety of other things like writing grants.

I asked about considering a professional counseling license because, depending on where you live, it might have more "pull" with insurance companies. In Michigan, the MSW is the top dog. Every insurance company will take one but will not always take an LPC. It also depends on your future goals. If all you want to do is see clients, I would recommend a degree in counseling rather than an MSW because it will likely have more rigorous training in the counseling process.

Does that help? If you want, memail me your city/state and we can look into potential options...
posted by WhiteWhale at 11:40 AM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

« Older Are there any famous people that have a non-famous...   |   Wordpress, please stop 404ing me. Please? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.