License Master Social Work – Scope of Practice Alert
Over the last year, the New York State office of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-NYS) received numerous complaints about Licensed Master Social Workers (LMSWs) practicing outside their scope of practice. While NASW-NYS is not the regulating body of licensure for the state, our mission includes strengthening the profession. In order to strengthen the profession, it is essential that all social workers understand and work within their legal scope of practice. LMSWs are not clinical social workers. Clinical social work services (diagnosis, psychotherapy, and assessment-based planning and treatment) are not within the LMSW scope of practice. According to the Regulations of the Commissioner, §74.6 and Education Law, Article 154, § 7704, LMSWs are only allowed to practice clinical social work under the supervision of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW or LCSW-R), licensed psychologist, or board certified psychiatrist. The clinical supervisor is legally and professionally responsible for clients seen by an LMSW.
According to the New York State Office of Professions, clients seen by LMSWs should receive informed consent that the social worker will be supervised by an approved clinical professional. “It is the responsibility of the supervisor/employer to ensure that patients are informed the licensed master social worker (LMSW) is only authorized to practice clinical social work under supervision. The client should understand that the supervisor is responsible for the diagnosis and practice of the LMSW. The LMSW shares with a qualified supervisor information about the diagnosis and treatment of each client and the supervisor is professionally responsible for the services provided by the LMSW. The client should be provided with the supervisor’s contact information so the client can share any concerns or questions about the LMSW’s practice with the supervisor.”
LMSWs are not allowed to establish a private practice or professional entity for the purpose of providing clinical social work services. This type of practice is outside the scope of practice for LMSWs. According to Education Law, Article 154, § 7701, LMSWs can only practice clinical social work under appropriate supervision in a facility setting or other supervised setting approved by the New York State Education Department. The following private practice entities must be approved by the department:
- A professional corporation, professional limited liability partnership or professional limited liability corporation that is authorized to provide services that include psychotherapy;
- A professional service corporation, registered limited liability partnership, or professional service limited liability company authorized to provide services that are within the scope of practice of licensed clinical social work;
- A sole proprietorship owned by a licensee who provides services that are within the scope of his or her profession and services that are within the scope of licensed clinical social work;
- A professional partnership owned by licensees who provide services that are within the scope of practice of licensed clinical social work;
LMSWs working in an approved private practice setting must be employed by the owner (receive a W-2) and receive appropriate supervision.
Social workers practicing outside of their scope of practice are subject to professional discipline. The New York State Board of Regents supervises the disciplinary proceedings for all licensed professionals, which are conducted by the New York State Education Department’s Office of Professions. Licensed professionals practicing outside of their scope are subject to censure and reprimand, fines, suspensions and/or probationary terms.
To ensure you are practicing within your scope of practice, all social workers should review the following webpages.