The Society’s History
The New York State Society for Clinical Social Work was founded in 1968 to address growing needs for professional support for private practitioners and to assist in navigating insurance reimbursement issues. NYSSCSW incorporated in 1970 and has continued to provide educational, professional and legislative services to its members. Among the notable achievements of the Society are its collaboration with other clinical social work organizations to develop a Code of Ethics ; legislative efforts to increase the role of clinical social workers in the delivery of services; and to grow and protect opportunities for insurance reimbursement for services. With the Society’s efforts, in 2002, New York State enacted a licensing system for clinical social workers. NYSSCSW continues to be a leader in providing education and support for the profession and in the forefront in promoting the profession Statewide. | Read the complete history...
The Beginning - 1968 to 1970
In 1965, legislation was passed to provide title protection for the title certified social worker. This legislation followed the enactment of a title protection statute for psychologists nine years earlier, in 1956. As psychoanalysis developed in Europe and the United States prior to World War II, it influenced the work of social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. After the war, increasing numbers of social workers and psychologists began to obtain training in psychoanalysis.
After several years of study, in 1964, the Delegate Assembly of the NASW issued a position statement on private practice for professional social workers. The position was that, “The National Association of Social Workers recognizes private practice as a legitimate area of social work, but it affirms that practice in socially sponsored organizational structures must remain the primary avenue of implementation of the goals of the profession.”
In October, 1968, Charles Smith and Robert Lampert, both recent graduates of The Postgraduate Center got Mental Health’s psychoanalytic training program, found themselves experiencing the need for professional support around the issues of private practice. Charles Smith was also frustrated that his less experienced classmates with psychiatric training could obtain insurance reimbursement for psychotherapeutic services they rendered, while he could not.
Back in the 1950's, the NASW was formed from a combination of various pre-existing social work professional groups. Dr. Smith, who was instrumental in having the American Association of Psychiatric Social Workers enter into the merger which led to the formation of the NASW, became a charter member of the NASW. So, Dr. Smith, sought support for social workers in private practice from the NASW. At the same time, Dr. Lampert, too, had done so, independently of Dr. Smith. At that time, generic social work was the primary focus of the profession, and the provision of psychotherapy in private treatment was seen as elitist. Thus, neither the NASW nor the schools of social work provided any significant support for social workers in private practice. While, at the same time, the American Psychological Association was advocating vigorously, effectively and persistently in well-organized efforts on behalf of clinical psychologists in private practice.
The result was that many social workers who were highly qualified social workers and psychotherapists were being discriminated against professionally by their own organization. In the late 1960's, Dr. Smith and Dr. Lampert discovered the similarity of their frustrations. Dr. Lampert suggested that, "[w]e ought to do something! We ought to start our own organization!"
Finally, in the Fall of 1968, an initial group of social workers, Jack Oshwetz, Sheldon Schneider, Breena Triestman Overton, Marcia Rabinowitz and Barbara Silverstone, met with Drs. Smith and Lampert. Shortly thereafter, they were joined by Abraham Ring, Morris Black, Alan Grossman, Martin Sylvester, Crayton Rowe, and Florence Radin. Dr. Lampert was elected as president, Dr. Smith as vice-president and Jack Oshwetz as treasurer. Marcia Rabinowitz, who first worked on membership, later become the recording secretary. This first group began to meet on every Saturday from 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. at the Postgraduate Center in one of the classrooms. In 1969, the group held its first Annual Education Conference, a yearly event which has continued to the present time.
Initially, the group had to confront the issue of social work identity were confronted. Many people were smarting from the lack of support for private practice from the NASW and the social work schools in New York City. They wished to stop calling themselves social workers altogether. Others did not agree with this but felt that psychiatric social worker was taking the identity from the psychiatric profession. After many meetings the term clinical social worker was arrived at, following the manner in which psychologists involved in clinical practice chose to distinguish themselves from other psychologists, while maintaining their identity as psychologists.
Dr. Smith, Marcia Rabinowitz and others worked extensively on building membership. Clinical social workers joined readily, often dropping their membership in the NASW. Word of the organization was spread around by word of mouth. There was a great need to open the Society to as many people as possible. The week after the name was agreed on, a large general meeting was called at Postgraduate Center to introduce it to as many social workers as possible. Betty Feldman, who was in charge of social work training at Postgraduate Center allowed the first large meeting to take place there. There was no official connection with Postgraduate Center, but her prestige in the social work community was helpful. Later the meetings were moved to members' homes and offices.
Eventually, on May 27, 1970, the certificate of incorporation of the Society of Clinical Social Workers, Inc. was approved.
Evolution of the Society - The 1970's
A few months after the Society become incorporated, Jack Oshwetz took a vacation in California. There, he found a group of social workers were struggling with the same issues and had begun an organization called, The California Society for Clinical Social Work. In 1971, recognizing the importance of a national voice, New York and five other states founded the National Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work.
As the group continued to meet, it came to Charles Smith's attention that Mary Gottesfeld, a clinical social worker at the Jewish Board of Guardians, was interested in publishing a journal of clinical social work. He invited her to a Saturday meeting at Florence Radin's house. The group was very enthusiastic about the project. The journal became the present Clinical Social Work Journal.
Over this decade the Society began to develop local chapters. Some of those chapters began providing educational workshops, in addition to the Society’s annual education conferences.
Legislative advocacy centered on two important issues. The first, was to rally to defeat an attempt by psychologists to have legislation enacted that would require social worker providing clinical services to do so under the supervision of psychologists or psychiatrists. That legislation was defeated. The second issue, a proactive one, was to seek legislation that would require that clinical services provided by clinical social workers be reimbursable by health insurance plans which provided for reimbursement of such services when provided by psychiatrists or psychologists. After a several year effort led by Martin Pollens, the chair of the Society’s Legislative Committee, Chapter 893 of the Laws of 1977, the so-called “P” law, was passed. However, this law had a limitation, that the purchaser of the group insurance policy had to request this coverage in order for the insurance company to be required to provide it.
Also, in 1997, the National Federation of State Societies for Clinical Social Work, enacted a Code of Ethics for Clinical Social Workers. The Ethics Committee of the Society, under the leadership of David Philips, contributed greatly to the drafting of the Code. The Society adopted the Code as the Code of Ethics for the Society.
In 1978, the Society changed its name to the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work Psychotherapists, to further recognize and to make it clear that clinical social workers practice psychotherapy.
Evolution of the Society - The 1980's
Legislative advocacy continued throughout the 1980's. After the “P” law was enacted, the Society’s Legislative Committee, under the leadership of Marsha Wineburgh, began to advocate for passage of legislation that would require group health insurance plans to include coverage for clinical social work services, if the plan covered such services if provided by psychologists or psychiatrists. In 1984, that legislation, Chapter 990 of the Laws of 1984, the so-called “R” law, was enacted into law. It provided that the clinical services provided by clinical social workers with six years of full-time, post-graduate supervised experience in providing psychotherapy services, would have to be covered by group health insurance policies if those policies covered those services if provided by psychologists or psychiatrists.
The expertise and qualifications of clinical social workers were recognized during this decade by two New York State courts. In People v. Gans, 119 Misc.2d 843, 465 N.Y.S.2d 147 (Sup. Ct. NY County, 1983), the court held that, “even though they are not physicians, certified social workers who demonstrate appropriate training and supervised clinical experience in the diagnostic assessment of mental disorders may, within the scope of their license, make diagnostic assessments of a person's mental condition and may qualify as experts in the diagnosis of mental disorders. . . . . A clinical social worker who demonstrates appropriate training and supervised clinical experience in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness would be qualified to make an expert prognostic statement with regard to the mental condition of a patient. . . . . A clinical social worker who evidences the necessary training and supervised clinical experience to make expert prognostic statements as to patients and who, in addition, demonstrates appropriate training and supervised clinical experience in the assessment of capacity to proceed, may provide along with others an expert opinion as to whether or not an incapacitated defendant can reasonably be expected to attain competence to proceed in the foreseeable future.”
In People v. Scala, 128 Misc.2d 831, 491 N.Y.S.2d 555 (Sup. Ct. NY County, 1985) the court held, “even though not enumerated under CPL 250.10 and CPL 60.55, properly qualified certified social workers may be appointed to examine defendants for the purpose of rendering opinions as to their mental condition with regard to the affirmative defense of lack of criminal responsibility by reason of mental disease or defect. They may provide expert opinions that may serve as the sole "psychiatric evidence" in relation to such affirmative defense. The weight to be accorded to the testimony of any forensic mental health expert is within the province of the trier of fact. This weight is unrelated to the particular professional discipline of the expert. Rather, it depends upon the assessment of the training and professional experience of the expert, the nature, extent and thoroughness of the examination and evaluation, the reasonableness and persuasiveness of the conclusion or opinion, the logic with which it is derived and the demeanor of the expert as a witness. . . . . I hold that a properly qualified certified social worker may be appointed to act as a "psychiatric examiner" appointed by the court, the defense, the People or a party other than the commissioner, pursuant to CPL 330.20(15). Clinical social workers, who provide the majority of the psychotherapeutic services rendered in the United States (see "Social Workers Vault into a Leading Role in Psychotherapy," N.Y. Times, Section C, Page 1, April 30, 1985) are particularly suited to be of assistance to the courts in resolving clinical--legal issues and in facilitating the effective administration of individualized justice in cases where issues relating to psychosocial dysfunction and mental disorders are involved.”
In response to the development of utilization review and other programs which eventually evolved into managed care, the Society began to provide training in how to address vendorship issues.
Over this decade, the Society’s chapters continued to grow. They provided opportunities for networking between clinical social workers. A number of the chapters also offered continuing professional education workshops in addition to the Society’s annual education conferences.
The Society was instrumental in helping form the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (“ABE”), which replaced the former National Registry of Health Care providers in Clinical Social Work, in 1988. ABE credentials qualified clinical social workers as Board Certified Diplomates in Clinical Social Work.
Evolution of the Society - The 1990's
The 1990's saw the commencement of the Society’s effort to obtain clinical social work licensure, a herculean effort that would take the next fifteen years. The Society’s Legislative Committee, headed by Marsha Wineburgh, led this effort, assisted by Hillel Bodek, who wrote many drafts of the licensing legislation.
Support for recognition of the expertise of clinical social workers and their advanced training and experience, and for a separate legal status for clinical social work as part of the larger social work profession, was helped by two New York State court decisions which distinguished clinical social workers from other social workers. See, Matter of Assigned Counsel Plan, 159 Misc.2d 109, 603 N.Y.S.2d 676 (Sup. Ct. NY County, 1993) and Matter of Assigned Counsel Plan (on motion for reconsideration of a prior decision), 159 Misc.2d 142, 603 N.Y.S.2d 687 (Sup. Ct. NY County, 1993).
The Society’s Education Committee, continued to plan and implement annual education conferences, while many of the chapters continued to provide continuing professional education workshops and, in some cases, annual education conferences. Chapters also continued to work to provide opportunities for clinical social workers to network with each other.
In an effort to meet the needs of MSW students and recent MSW graduates who seek to become clinical social workers, Barbara Bryan started the Society’s mentorship program where recent MSW graduates and MSW members who are early in their clinical social work careers can partake in mentorship groups where they can network and discuss topics pertinent to their development as clinical social workers and can receive guidance, support, nurturance and advice to further their professional development as clinical social workers.
In response to the increasing concerns over managed care, the Society established a Vendorship Committee to assist members in addressing issues over managed care and reimbursement for clinical social work services.
In 1993, the Society changed its name to the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work. This was in recognition of the fact that clinical social workers not only provide mental health services, but other health and social services as well, and that psychotherapy is only one of the services provided by clinical social workers, in a variety of settings.
Evolution of the Society - The 2000's
In response to the events of 9/11, a number of members of the Society volunteered to assist the families of 9/11 victims and those others who were also impacted by those events. In order to prepare our members to be ready to respond in other disaster situations, the Society created a Disaster Preparedness Committee.
In terms of legislative advocacy, in 2002, the new clinical social work licensor law, Chapter 420 of the Laws of 2002, was enacted to take effect on September 1, 2004. The Society’s Legislative Committee, headed by Marsha Wineburgh, assisted by Hillel Bodek, the chairperson of the Society’s Committee on Ethics and Professional Standards, worked to assure that the regulations to implement the new licensing law would assure the quality of clinical social work practice in New York. The Society succeeded in successfully opposing the deans of the schools of social work and the NASW over the amount of clinical courses that the schools would be required to provide to meet the legal requirement of specific clinical coursework for clinical social work licensure. We also successfully argued against an attempt by the deans of the schools of social work and the NASW to allow LMSWs to provide supervision of MSW students in field placements in performing clinical social work services.
In 2005, a New York State Court interpreting the new social work licensing law held that, “as a matter of law, that in terms of clinical functions, the scope of practice of psychology and the scope of practice of licensed clinical social work, although described using some different words at times, do not vary in substance and are wholly equal and the same.” People v. RR, 12 Misc.3d 161, 179, 807 N.Y.S.2d 516, 528 (Sup. Ct. NY County, 2005). Legal parity with psychology is now much closer to becoming a reality.
In 2001, in response to the need to train clinical social workers to work with the increasing number of persons suffering from severe chronic or terminal illnesses, the Society began a Committee on Palliative and End-of-Life Care.
In 2004, the Society began a program to offer continuing professional education credits (CEUs) for educational programs provided by the Society, it’s committees, and its chapters.
In 2004, the Society withdrew from the Clinical Social Work Federation because, in our view, it was no longer providing effective national advocacy for clinical social work. In 2006, the Society affiliated with the Center for Clinical Social Work to work together on mutual concerns of interest to clinical social work.
The Society continues to offer its annual education conference. Many chapters provide continuing professional education in the form of educational workshops and annual education conferences. Many of the chapters also have practice committees where chapter members can learn about various areas of practice for clinical social workers and network with other persons involved in working in those practice areas.
The chapters continue to provide opportunities for clinical social workers to come together for networking with their clinical social work colleagues.
In addition to mentorship programs, some of the chapters have begun to offer the opportunity to participate in peer supervision groups where more advanced clinical social work practitioners can come together in a supportive, sharing and collaborative environment to network, discuss clinical practice issues and obtain consultation from their peers.
Presidents of the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work, Inc. 1968 - 2008
The following is a chronological list of the Presidents of the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work, Inc.
Seven of the Society’s Presidents Have Been Designated as Distinguished Practitioners of Social Work by the National Academies of Practice, a national organization, akin to the National Academy of Science (which honors scientists, rather than health care practitioners) which honors up to one hundred fifty clinicians in each of ten health care disciplines as distinguished practitioners in their discipline. This honor constitutes a recognition of individuals health care providers who have shown sustained superior performance in clinical practice, dedication to the furtherance of high quality interdisciplinary health care in the United States through clinical practice, education and research, and have made significant and enduring contributions to the practice of their profession which merit recognition at a national level.
In addition to the seven Society Presidents who have been designated as Distinguished Practitioners of Social Work by the National Academies of Practice, twenty-four (24) additional members of the Society have also been so designated, making a total of thirty-one (31) Society members who have been so honored.