What you need to know
The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers (NSCSW) is pleased to announce that changes to regulations regarding private practice registration and clinical practice are planned to take effect in April of 2024. This transition marks a significant step in our ongoing commitment to ensure high standards of professional social work practice to serve the public interests. This includes significant changes to our By-laws; sections 32 and 33 are being replaced with new guidelines that were approved by members at our special general meeting in 2023.
We understand that these changes may raise questions. We’re here to support you through this transition. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any clarifications about what you read below.
Important changes to NSCSW By-laws
Here’s what you need to know:
New clinical practice regulations
As of April 2024, only Registered Social Workers approved by the Board of Examiners will be able to engage in the private practice of the clinical social work specialization. Information on how to apply for this specialization will be provided to members in Spring 2024.
Grandparenting for existing private practitioners
If you’re an existing private practitioner whom the Board of Examiners has previously approved to engage in clinical social work, you do not need to reapply; the NSCSW will transfer your registration from private practitioner to clinical specialist. You should expect to receive notice in May of 2024 to confirm that your status has changed accordingly.
Private Practice for Registered Social Workers & Social Worker Candidates
If you’re a Registered Social Worker or a Social Worker Candidate in good standing, in April 2024 you will become eligible to engage in private practice of social work, provided you have the necessary competence. However, this will not extend to clinical social work services. Clinical social work in a private practice setting will still require authorization from the NSCSW Board of Examiners.
Understanding clinical social work
Clinical social work is a specialized field that:
- Provides mental health, addiction, trauma, grief/loss/illness, and crisis assessments, contextualizing individuals within their unique social environments.
- Employs research-based therapy methods that align with bio-psycho-social-spiritual principles that are culturally relevant.
- Engages directly with individuals, couples, families, and groups, addressing complex issues impacting individual and family functioning.
- Is guided by broader social work concepts such as human rights and social justice.
- Initiates and implements intervention plans with the client to meet goals
Requirements for Clinical Social Work Specialization
Are you considering applying for this specialization? We plan to have instructions ready for you by Spring 2024. Applicants must meet specific educational, experience, and supervision requirements:
- Earn a Master of Social Work degree from an accredited school, or demonstrate substantial equivalency through graduate-level academic coursework and practice experience.
- Complete 12 academic credits from an accredited social work program or equivalent professional development that aligns with the course requirements identified by the Board of Examiners.
- Fulfill 1800 hours of supervised practice experience in a clinical setting.
- Complete 24 hours of clinical social work supervision.
- Undergo an assessment of clinical abilities conducted by a clinical social work supervisor.
Academic credit requirements
Applicants must complete 12 academic credit hours, equivalent to four academic half-credit courses, aligned with clinical social work specialization. Of these credits, six must be completed at the Master of Social Work (MSW) level.
The coursework should focus on:
- Understanding the conceptual, historical, political, gender, and societal factors that influence values, beliefs, and practices regarding mental health, well-being, addiction, trauma, grief/loss/illness, and crisis services and systems from a bio-psycho-social and spiritual perspective.
- Assessment within persons, families, and communities dealing with mental health, well-being, addiction, trauma, grief/loss/illness, and crisis, with a strong emphasis on human development and social behaviour.
- Therapy and research-based service modalities, focusing on developing the abilities required to support individuals, families, and communities affected by mental health, well-being, addiction, trauma, grief/loss/illness, and crisis.
- A practicum in a clinical setting where the direct provision of the clinical scope is utilized in the service for mental health, well-being, addiction, trauma, grief/loss/illness, and crisis issues.
To demonstrate completion of the academic coursework, applicants must upload the course syllabus. If a course syllabus is unavailable, applicants must outline the objectives of the course and sign an undertaking indicating they have completed the course.
Demonstrating equivalency to academic requirements
Applicants who have not met or partially met the academic requirements will be able to demonstrate equivalency through the NSCSW registration portal. Here, they can outline 432 hours of informal and formal training that aligns with the objectives of the required academic courses.
Provision for applicants with incomplete requirements
If you haven’t met the supervision and/or practice hour requirements, you may still receive authorization to practice clinical social work in a private practice setting. However, you will have “restrictions to complete supervision.” These restrictions will be visible on your public profile until you complete the required supervision and practice experience.
Additional information & interviews
The Board of Examiners may request an interview or additional information if your application is inadequate or inconclusive in determining your suitability for the clinical social work specialization.
Malpractice liability insurance
Before you engage in the private practice of a clinical social work specialization, you must provide evidence of suitable malpractice liability insurance coverage.
Understanding the role of clinical supervision in social work
Clinical supervision plays a key role in the professional development of social workers. It focuses on enhancing the practitioner’s skills, knowledge, abilities, and regulation to grow their clinical expertise. Here’s what you need to know:
Who can be a supervisor?
To qualify as a supervisor, one must be a Registered Social Worker in good standing with NSCSW or a legislated regulatory body. They should have at least three years of experience in clinical social work and demonstrate competencies in clinical supervision.
What skills should supervisors have?
Clinical supervisors should possess knowledge and skills in various modalities aligned with the scope of practice outlined in NSCSW By-laws. Effective supervision requires a comprehensive understanding of supervision principles, the ability to address the strengths and challenges of supervisees, model ethical practice, and provide support and encouragement.
The role of clinical supervisors
Active participation is crucial in developing specialization skills. Supervisors play a vital role in:
- Assessing satisfactory levels in assessments
- Enhancing relational abilities such as engaging with clients using empathy and dialogue
- Focusing critically on social context and oppression
- Collaborating with other professionals
- Advocating for access to services
- Encouraging reflexivity including self-awareness, agency, and knowledge of human social behavior & skills
- Promoting collective responsibility by using critical thinking for policies that advance rights and justice
Clarifying the supervision reporting procedure
If you’re an applicant who has previously practiced in a clinical setting and have accumulated 1800 hours of practice experience along with 24 hours of clinical supervision, your supervisor will be required to complete an online assessment of your clinical abilities.
However, if your supervision hours are not yet completed, you should create an online plan detailing how you intend to fulfill these hours. Once you’ve completed the 1800 hours of practice experience and 24 hours of clinical supervision, your supervisor can then finalize their assessment of your clinical abilities online.
Upcoming policy decisions for new clinical specialization regulations
As we prepare to roll out new regulations for the clinical specialization, we want to keep you informed about several important policy decisions that will be made in the coming months. These crucial steps are designed to ensure the highest level of competence and care in our profession.
Finalizing supervision criteria
One of our key areas of focus is finalizing the criteria for who can provide supervision in a clinical setting. This will be determined by a thorough review of qualifications and experience, ensuring that supervisors are well-equipped to guide their supervisees effectively.
Setting clinical guidelines
We’re also working on establishing clear guidelines for clinical practice. This includes the use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), recognizing its pivotal role in assessments and case planning. We are also focusing on outlining the necessary steps for obtaining specializations within the field.
Ensuring culturally appropriate services
We’re developing specific guidelines for providing clinical services to Black, Indigenous, and 2SLGBTQIA+ service users. These guidelines are intended to foster understanding, and to acknowledge and address the unique challenges faced by these communities. We hope to ensure that everyone in Nova Scotia can access social work services that are culturally safe.
Your voice matters. We have repeatedly sought our members’ participation in determining whether and how to undertake this transition. Starting in February and running through March, we will be launching a final round of consultations on the guidelines that are currently under development. This is your opportunity to provide input and help shape the future of our profession. We encourage you to actively participate in these discussions.
We understand that these changes may prompt questions or raise concerns, so please don’t hesitate to contact us. The NSCSW is committed to providing support throughout this transition period. And please stay tuned for more details about these upcoming changes.
Together, we can continue to uphold the highest standards in social work practice and foster an inclusive, competent, and caring profession.