The Shortage of Licensed Social Workers in Central Florida
For several decades, a national shortage of licensed clinical social workers has been growing in the United States. Licensed social workers provide counsel and advocacy for those affected by mental illness, addiction, abuse, and discrimination, among other economic difficulties, and are the largest group of providers of mental and behavioral health services. The research questions for this project addressed what challenges unlicensed social workers in central Florida identify as barriers to pursuing clinical licensure. This study also explored strategies that unlicensed social workers in central Florida reported to address these barriers and encourage the pursuit of clinical licensure. The purpose of this research was to identify both the barriers that social worker's report in seeking their licensure and effective strategies to address the barriers. The theoretical framework to inform the project was systems theory. An action research design was used including a focus group of 5 unlicensed social workers, selected through purposive sampling. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data. Study outcomes showed that social workers in central Florida chose not to pursue licensure because of the cost and time associated with the process. Changes recommended as part of this research may bring about social change through an increase in the number of licensed social workers to assist Floridians who seek such services.