Scopes of Practice (SOPs) help guide professions by establishing guidelines for how a profession is to be practiced. Social Work SOPs, while varied across states, attempt to define the services and functions that are allowed by different levels of social workers. The Affordable Care Act introduced new regulations that require more social workers and other behavioral health workers to assist in the provision of behavioral health services. As such, social work practice must be regulated to ensure that both the profession’s and the population’s needs are being met.

Social Work SOPs have been changing over the past decade to more carefully define the requirements of social work licensure and allowable services. These changes are occurring at the state level, but the field lacks a system to track monitor these changes at the national level. Consequently, policy makers have limited opportunity to systematically assess the potential strengths and gaps in the social work profession at the national level. This knowledge is essential for building and monitoring the capacity of the behavioral health workforce. The purpose of the current study is to obtain, analyze and disseminate information about social work SOPs from all fifty states and the District of Columbia, with an emphasis on determining the range of allowable services and professional training requirement of social workers.


A policy brief summarizing findings of this study is available for download. A full report of study findings will be available in Fall 2016.