Ask SWTP: Media Appearances and Social Work Ethics, Part Two

tv-panel-maybe-social-workersLeft out of Dr. Frederic Reamer's note about social work ethics and media (previous post) was this question:

Q:  Can social workers talk to reporters about cases involving people who aren't their client?

SWTP's Answer:  Social workers may find that they are approached by reporters and have the opportunity to appear in print, radio, or on TV. Reporters are especially eager to get background on what might have motivated a person to commit a particular crime or live a certain type of lifestyle. How should social workers respond? In a word, carefully.  
Social workers may give quotes that cover mental health topics in general terms. But social workers should take care not to diagnose anyone they haven't seen as a client or offer wisdom about an area in which they have no real expertise. Of course, if a reporter is asking about a specific client of the social worker's, confidentiality must be protected--"No comment."
While promoting your services is ethical, remain factual, speak generallly, and be respectful of clients' rights and social work ethics.

Need to brush up on questions like these?  Try the NASW Code of Ethics and our practice exams.   Have a question you'd like to see answered here? Write
Good luck on the exam!

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Media Appearances and Social Work Ethics

ethical-standards-in-social-workWe couldn't find a good article online about the ethics of media appearances for social workers. What do you do when asked to comment about a client for newspaper, radio, or TV?  For an answer, we turned to Dr. Frederic Reamer, a professor, author, and social work ethics authority. His response:

I have not written articles on this specific topic, although I say a little bit in my book Ethical Standards in Social Work

I'd suggest reviewing relevant standards in the NASW Code of Ethics (particularly standard 1.07[k]).

As I trust you know, social workers have a duty to avoid disclosure of any identifying, confidential, or privileged information about a client without client consent.  Occasionally a client will consent to such disclosure to media.  I think social workers need to be careful about disclosing such information, even with client consent, if there's any risk that the client would be harmed by the disclosure.  Part of the problem with disclosure with client consent is that the general public may not know that the client consented, and this can create the impression that therapists don't protect client confidentiality.  I often tell reporters that I can comment about "classes" or "groups" of clients in general, but I'm not permitted to comment about any individual client.

I would be careful to document thoroughly any discussion with a client about the potential benefits and risks of disclosure.

For more from Dr. Reamer, try Amazon and his Social Work Today column, Eye on Ethics.

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Ask SWTP: Should I Read the Answers First?

exam-choiceMC writes, "As it relates to taking the exam, would you recommend reading the answers first, then read the question?"

Thanks for the question, MC. What seems to work best for most people is to read the question first--stop and think what the answer might be--then read the answers and find the one closest to what you'd been thinking.

On a long, timed test like the social work licensing exam, reading the answers first may be a risky strategy since you'd be adding to the amount of time you're taking on each item. That said, you may have seen research that shows that you can come close to passing the social work exam without ever reading the question stems. So either way, maybe you're okay.

If you've discovered with practice exams that you're a quick test-taker, then the answers-first approach might be worth a try--just to see what happens. If you do get better results that way, let us know!

Most tips on test-taking focus on careful reading and deliberation on each item. Here are few select pieces of advice about multiple-choice exams from

Eliminate options you know to be incorrect

If allowed, mark words or alternatives in questions that eliminate the option

Give each option of a question the "true-false test"

This may reduce your selection to the best answer.

Question options that are totally unfamiliar to you.

Question options that contain negative or absolute words.

Find more on the site and also on a similar page at

For a researched-based approach to test preparation, take a look at this article from Psych Central. In short: practice tests are a good idea. So, good thing you've found SWTP!

For more links to test-taking strategies, including reducing test anxiety, take a look at our Study Tips page.

However you choose to tackle the test, wishing you the best of luck! Congratulations in advance on getting licensed!

If you have a question you'd like to see covered here, write

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questions about the aswb examWhat's got you stumped? As you've studied for the social work exam, what's remained stubbornly confusing, unclear, or unanswered?  Write and we'll endeavor to cover it in these pages. Theories, practice, exam content, exam process...try us!

To kick things off, here are a couple of simple questions we've been hearing a lot:

Q: Do I have to know DSM-5 for the social work exam?

A: The ASWB will be introducing DSM-5 questions starting January, 1st, 2014. If you're taking the exam before then, study DSM-IV-TR. If you were planning to take the test at the end of 2013, it may make sense to push till January and spend your efforts learning the version of the DSM that you'll need to know for practice for the coming years--just a thought!

Q: How long does my exam purchase on Social Work Test Prep last?

A: 60 days. [UPDATE: NOW 90 DAYS!] With your purchase, you can take the test in timed Exam Mode three times. You get unlimited times through the test in untimed Study Mode. We suggest spreading the timed mode exams out over the sixty [NINETY!] days. Questions and answers are randomized each time you take the exam, helping prevent memorization. More details about the exam and how to approach it on the Get Started and Study Tips pages. To make a purchase, sign up on the sidebar, go to Account and click away!

Thanks in advance for your questions. Good luck on the exam!

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