Private Practice

Licensed Master Social Workers Practicing Clinical Social Work Under Supervision

Advisory Notice: The following is provided as a guideline in the application of the laws, rules and regulations related to acceptable experience for licensure as an LCSW. Law, rules and regulations specify the requirements for practice and take precedence over any inconsistent guideline; violating any such law, rule, or regulation may constitute professional misconduct. Not adhering to this guideline may be interpreted as professional misconduct only if the conduct also violates pertinent law, rules and regulations. If you have specific questions about legal entities and corporations, you should consult with an attorney.

Background | Eligibility for Consideration | Questions & Answers | COP Decision | Form SWCOP-1

Background

A Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) is authorized to practice clinical social work only under the supervision of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), licensed psychologist or licensed physician who is competent in psychiatry. Additionally, such practice is limited to a setting that is authorized to provide professional services. It has come to the attention of the State Board for Social Work that certain LMSWs have completed, or are in the process of completing, experience for licensure as an LCSW in a setting or under a supervision arrangement that may not be consistent with general requirements related to the practice of the professions. More specifically, the types of experience in question are those in which:

  1. the setting was a private practice owned by the LMSW, and/or
  2. the supervisor of the experience was employed by the LMSW.

In fairness to applicants and supervisors who acted in good faith and consistent with activities that were previously allowed under prior law, the Committee on the Professions (COP), which is authorized to review substantial or novel questions concerning education and experience requirements for licensure, was asked whether certain experience could be accepted for licensure. After reviewing the question, the COP has determined that the State Board for Social Work may accept experience that qualifies under (1) and/or (2) above and otherwise satisfies the requirements for licensure, if the experience was started prior to February 2, 2009 and completed by February 2, 2015. Apart from the limited situation identified in (1) above. This authorization is specific to the types of experience identified in (1) and/or (2) above only. A copy of the COP action may be found below.


Eligibility for Consideration

In order to qualify for this consideration, an individual must meet all requirements for licensure as an LCSW, PLUS:

  • Submit an Attestation of Supervised Clinical Practice (Form SWCOP-1 PDF) to indicate the basis for eligibility under the COP action. This form must provide information about the setting and supervisor, including the date the experience started. The applicant may only practice clinical social work under a qualified supervisor until licensed as an LCSW and must maintain the registration as a Licensed Master Social Worker.

Please note the form must be signed by the LMSW applicant and the supervisor and Form 4B must be submitted to verify hours and experience, if not previously submitted to the State Board. In the case of multiple supervisors, including contemporaneous supervisors or settings, additional forms should be submitted.

The Notification of Supervised Clinical Social Work Practice (Form SWCOP-1 PDF) should be filed as soon as possible.

When you have completed at least three years of full-time, post-MSW supervised experience in diagnosis and psychotherapy, your supervisor must submit Form 4B to the State Board, if not previously submitted. Your experience will be evaluated and you will be notified if you have met the experience requirements or if additional experience or information is required.

The information requested will protect the public by ensuring that clients are notified of your ability to practice under supervision. By providing this information to the Department, we will be able to determine the eligibility of your ongoing experience at the time you submit this form rather than after the experience has been completed and submitted. Please note that all requirements for licensure must be completed by February 2, 2015. You can access the requirements for licensure and all other licensure forms on this site.


Questions & Answers

  1. Why did the Committee on the Professions (COP) make this determination?

    Prior to the enactment of licensure for LMSWs and LCSWs on September 1, 2004, there were no prohibitions on establishing a private practice or employment of a supervisor to meet the experience requirements for the psychotherapy privileges. Although such practices should have ceased with the enactment of the new licensure law, this was not clearly communicated to licensees and prospective applicants by the Department. Therefore, certain individuals earned an MSW degree and then, in good faith, entered into situations which resulted in the submission of experience for licensure that was not acceptable to the State Board due to the setting in which it took place.

    The Committee on the Professions is comprised of three Department officers designated by the Board of Regents and is authorized under the Regents Rules to review licensing determinations of staff relating to experience if the matter involves a substantial or novel question. After reviewing the information, the COP determined that the State Board may accept certain supervised experience for licensure.

  2. Can an LMSW who begins his or her supervised experience after February 2, 2009 become eligible under the COP action?

    No. The COP action applies only to those experience settings started by the applicant prior to February 2, 2009. All other applicants must complete experience in an acceptable setting.

  3. Can a Licensed Master Social Worker operate a private practice?

    A Licensed Master Social Worker who is registered to practice may form any legal business entity, including a private practice. The LMSW may provide any services defined as within the scope of practice of Licensed Master Social Work, so long as the licensee is competent. However, Education Law Section 7701 restricts Licensed Master Social Workers from providing clinical services in settings other than "facility settings or other supervised settings." Accordingly, New York law does not allow an LMSW to establish a private practice or professional entity (e.g., professional corporation or professional limited liability partnership) for the purpose of providing "clinical social work services." However, experience gained in a private practice owned by an LMSW may be accepted to satisfy the experience requirement for licensure in accordance with the COP action discussed above.

  4. Can an LMSW be employed in the private practice of an LCSW, licensed psychologist or physician qualified in psychiatry to practice diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning under supervision?

    An LMSW may be employed by an LCSW, licensed psychologist or licensed physician who is qualified to practice and supervise the practice of diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning. The LCSW may own and operate a sole professional proprietorship, professional corporation, registered limited liability partnership or professional limited liability company that is owned by one or more licensed clinical social workers for the purpose of providing clinical social work services. The entity that is established by the psychologist or psychiatrist must be authorized to provide professional services, and the supervisor must be competent to practice and supervise the LMSW in diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning. The law prohibits an LCSW from establishing a professional entity with an individual licensed in any other profession.

  5. Can an LMSW meet the experience requirement in a not-for-profit entity or business corporation that is not authorized to employ licensed professionals?

    The Education Law restricts the employment of licensees and the practice of a profession to a setting, such as a hospital, mental health clinic, substance abuse treatment center, or similar not-for-profit or business entity, that is authorized under New York laws. Prior to the establishment of a scope of practice on September 1, 2004, this prohibition did not apply. After that date, the State Board cannot accept experience for licensure nor issue a limited permit to practice in a setting that is not authorized to employ licensees or provide professional services. This is a matter of law and the Department has discussed with stakeholders the need to amend the law to allow qualified entities to provide services to individuals and families in New York. For any experience completed prior to such a change in law to be acceptable for licensure, the legislation would have to provide for a retroactive effect.

  6. Why does the law restrict the employment of a supervisor?

    The employment of a supervisor by an individual who is not licensed to practice the profession is not consistent with applicable laws and the Rules of the Board of Regents for other professions. This type of arrangement places the LMSW, who is only authorized to practice under supervision, in a position of control in the relationship with the ability to "fire" the supervisor. This is inconsistent with the performance of effective supervision. The supervisor is the only person licensed and authorized to engage independently in the restricted activity (e.g., practice of diagnosis and psychotherapy) and must not be subject to the control of the individual being supervised.

  7. What is third-party supervision? Is it acceptable?

    Third-party supervision generally describes a situation in which a qualified supervisor is employed by an LMSW or contracted with by the authorized agency to supervise the LMSW in the practice of clinical social work. This practice raises concerns as to whether:

    • treatments provided to the patient are consistent with the policy and practice of the agency, which is responsible for the client;
    • patient-specific information is provided to a third-party supervisor without the consent of the agency or the patient, possibly in violation of patient confidentiality; and
    • legal and professional responsibility for the assessment and treatment of the patient has been placed, by an LMSW who is only authorized to practice clinical social work under supervision, on a third-party supervisor who is not known to any other party.

    Because of these concerns, as a general rule third-party supervision should be provided under an agreement between the agency, supervisor and LMSW. The agreement must provide the supervisor with access to the patient and records, with the consent of the patient. An arrangement for third-party supervision should be documented in writing to outline the supervisor's responsibility for the evaluation and treatment of each patient. As a general rule, the agreement should provide for the payment for supervision to be made by the agency, not by the LMSW.


COP Decision

Date: January 22, 2009
To: Committee on the Professions
From: David Hamilton, State Board for Social Work
Subject: Request for determination on experience for licensure

Issue: Prior to licensure as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), an applicant must complete three years of full-time post-degree supervised experience, acceptable to the Department, or the part-time equivalent thereof obtained over a period not to exceed six years. It has come to the attention of the State Board for Social Work that certain applicants for licensure as an LCSW have completed, or are in the process of completing, experience that meets the explicit supervision content criteria of applicable laws and regulations regarding experience but is provided in a setting or under a supervision arrangement that may not be consistent with more general interpretations of the laws relating to the practice of the professions. More specifically, the types of experience that are in question are those in which:

  1. the setting was in a private practice owned by the applicant; and/or
  2. the supervisor of the experience was employed by the applicant.

Education Law allows a licensed master social worker (LMSW) to practice licensed clinical social work in “facility settings or other supervised settings approved by the department, under supervision in accordance with the Commissioner’s Regulations” (Education Law section 7701[1][d]). Section 74.3 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education defines an acceptable setting as a facility or non-facility setting or a combination of the two. These terms are defined as follows:

  1. A facility setting shall mean a federal, state, county or municipal agency, or other political subdivision, or a chartered elementary or secondary school or degree-granting educational institution, or a not-for-profit or proprietary incorporated entity, which government agency, educational institution, or not-for-profit or proprietary incorporated entity is licensed or otherwise authorized to provide services that fall within the scope of practice of licensed clinical social work.
  2. A nonfacility setting shall mean any other setting not prescribed in subparagraph (i) of this paragraph.

Applicants have proceeded under the assumption that a "non-facility setting" includes a private LMSW practice owned by the applicant, who then practiced clinical social work in that setting and purchased supervision from an LCSW, licensed psychologist or psychiatrist who met the definition of qualified supervisor in Education Law and Commissioner's Regulations. This assumption would have been consistent with the practice of social work prior to September 1, 2004, at which time the profession enjoyed only "title protection." It would not, however, be consistent with current Education Law which provides for both title protection and scope of practice protection for LMSWs and LCSWs, as the owner of a scope-protected professional practice must be finally responsible for all professional activities undertaken in the practice and may not, therefore, be under the supervision another individual.

Why is it necessary to act?

Effective September 1, 2004, the title protected profession of “certified social work” was converted to two separate professions – “licensed master social work” and “licensed clinical social work,” each with both scope and title protection. Given:

  • the number of existing social work practitioners and unlicensed individuals providing the same services when there was no scope of practice protection;
  • the great variety of entities (including professional practices, business corporations, and not-for-profit corporations) that were legally providing social work services prior to the enactment of the new law;
  • the overlap with statutory and regulatory provisions relating to eligibility for insurance reimbursement for psychotherapy services; and
  • the complexity of the change in authorized social work providers,
it was very difficult to effectively communicate the many practice changes and new requirements to the vast array of impacted employers, students, applicants and licensees. Accordingly, a number of issues have arisen concerning the settings in which acceptable experience may be obtained for licensure as an LCSW. Many individuals who were already engaged in obtaining their education and/or experience at the time the new law became effective proceeded as if the laws did not change on September 1, 2004. The situation was further complicated as some of the information provided with application forms, on the Office of the Professions web site, and in response to questions either continued to provide information that was accurate under the pre-existing law but not under the new law or did not fully and clearly address the change in acceptable settings and the hiring of supervisors.

The Office of the Professions is currently engaged in discussions with stakeholders to address the issues related to acceptable experience for licensure as an LCSW, as well as a variety of other issues that have arisen in implementing the new law since September 1, 2004. The solutions will vary, from statutory changes to address corporate practice issues and the expiration in 2010 of a statutory exemption for certain practice settings, to clarification of the regulations defining acceptable experience for licensure for future applicants.

One aspect of the solution is this request to the Committee on the Professions that Department staff be authorized to accept experience for licensure as an LCSW that was completed in a private practice owned by the applicant and/or under a supervisor who was employed by the applicant as long as that experience otherwise satisfies the requirements set forth in section 74.3 of the Commissioner’s Regulations and is otherwise in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. While the Department has determined that, under the context of the new social work licensure law, such practice and supervision arrangements do not constitute best practices for the training of LCSWs and should not be applied prospectively, it recognizes that applicant ownership and payment of a supervisor were the norm under the former law and provided for adequate training for many now licensed as LCSWs under the statutory grandparenting provisions. Given the factors listed above, the reliance by applicants on previously existing practices, and the delay in communicating the changes in those practices to applicants, it is recommended that the Department be authorized to accept experience obtained in a private practice owned by the applicant and/or under supervision paid for by the applicant, as provided below. Except as specified herein for private practice settings owned by the applicant, this policy will not apply to supervision obtained in practice environments which are not authorized to provide clinical social work services or exempt from the requirements of licensure. For example, experience obtained in a business or not-for-profit corporation that is not authorized to provide the appropriate professional services or exempt from licensure requirements will not be accepted to satisfy the experience requirements for licensure.

If the COP approves the vote below, the State Board will review those applications previously deemed not acceptable because the setting was a private practice owned by the applicant and/or because the supervisor was hired by the applicant to oversee the experience. In addition, the State Board will communicate through the OP Web site and list-serve, as well as through professional associations, provider groups, schools of social work, and State agencies, the COP action and opportunity for re-evaluation and submission of applications from individuals who would have met the requirements. The opportunity to take advantage of this COP action will be limited to those who commenced their supervised experience before February 2, 2009, who submit their applications for licensure prior to February 2, 2015, and who meet all other licensure requirements. In accordance with Section 74.3 of the Regulations of the Commissioner, the experience will have to be completed within six years from the commencement of the experience.

Voted that: The Committee on the Professions authorizes Department staff to accept experience for licensure as a licensed clinical social worker that was completed in a private practice owned by the applicant and/or under a supervisor who was employed by the applicant, provided that such experience otherwise satisfies the requirements set forth in section 74.3 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education and is otherwise in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and further provided that in order to be acceptable under this vote, the experience must have been commenced prior to February 2, 2009 and the application must be submitted to the Department no later than February 2, 2015 on forms prescribed by the Department.


Form SWCOP-1

The Form SWCOP-1 is to be used by a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) who, prior to February 2, 2009 employed a clinical supervisor in a private practice or other authorized setting for the purpose of practicing clinical social work in New York. The form will be reviewed to determine if the LMSW is eligible for consideration under the determination of the Committee on the Professions (COP). Those individuals who are determined to be eligible will be able to have this experience credited towards licensure and, if necessary, to continue to practice under the specified conditions until their experience requirement is completed, but not beyond February 2, 2015

Notes about using this form

Supervisor Qualifications: The supervisor must indicate the profession in which he or she is licensed and provide a copy of the professional license.

Practice Setting: In the case of settings other than a private practice owned by the LMSW or the supervisor, we must determine if the setting is authorized to employ licensed professionals or provide professional services. In addition to indicating the setting address and type of entity, the supervisor must attach a copy of an operating certificate or other authorization to provide professional services.

Supervision: The supervisor must provide individual or group supervision of the duration and frequency established in Section 74.3 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The supervisor must indicate how appropriate supervision is provided if the LMSW owns or operates a private practice. If the LMSW is employed in an authorized agency that does not provide supervision, we must receive a copy of any agreement between the employer, LMSW and supervisor authorizing third-party supervision. You should also be sure that your supervisor provides a copy of the consent form that notifies clients that you are practicing under their supervision and how to contact the supervisor with questions or concerns.

Deadline: The initial SWCOP-1 form must be submitted as soon as possible for review by the State Board. If you are practicing under more than one supervisor, a separate Form SWCOP-1 should be submitted for each setting and supervisor. If there is a compelling reason to change the supervisor or setting after the form is approved, the LMSW and supervisor must submit a new Form SWCOP-1 and an explanation of the reason for requesting the change. Please indicate on the front of the form if this is for an additional setting or supervisor or for a change of supervisor or setting after February 2, 2009.

An LMSW who is determined by the State Board to be eligible for consideration under the COP decision may practice only under supervision until licensed. All experience completed under this determination must be completed by February 2, 2015 and submitted on Form 4B to the State Board for evaluation. Form SWCOP-1 must be submitted to the State Board whether or not the supervised experience has been completed and submitted to the Department.

In order to be licensed as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), you must meet all requirements under the Education Law and Commissioner's Regulations. The requirements for licensure and forms for verification of clinical education and experience are available on the Office of the Professions' Web site.

Form SWCOP-1 ( PDF 20 KB) Notification of Supervised Clinical Social Work Practice

This form must be submitted directly by the supervisor. The Office of the Professions will not accept this form if submitted by the applicant.

  • Section I: Complete this section before sending the entire form to the supervisor who supervised/is supervising your practice of clinical social work and ask that they complete Section II. Be sure to sign and date item 7.
  • Section II: The supervisor who supervised/is supervising your practice of clinical social work must complete this section, sign, date and return the entire form directly to the Office of the Professions at the address at the end of the form. The supervisor's signature on this form must be notarized by a Notary Public.
Last Updated: December 14, 2009