Social Work Exam Question: Psych Ward Social Worker

hospital Here's a quick, free exam-style question. A little practice, outside of our full-length practice tests, to get you ever-more prepared for the licensing exam.

A psychiatric hospital social worker tells her supervisor she's been feeling irritable, exhausted, restless at night, and unsure of her ability to do her job anymore. She's thinking of quitting. The supervisor suggests a new hobby, some exercise, and time with friends. How is the supervisor most likely conceptualizing the social worker's complaints?

A) As depression.

B) As adjustment disorder.

C) As compassion fatigue.

D) As acute stress disorder.

What do you think?

This one's pretty easily narrowed down. Does the supervisor think that the social worker has clinically significant, diagnosable symptoms? If so, you have three choices. Adjustment disorder is probably the best of those. But you're not given symptom duration or severity. So a diagnosis is pretty much not doable here.

That leaves one answer standing. The one that's not in the DSM. C, compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is well-known to most front-line social workers. This article in Good Therapy outlines the most common causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Among the causes, encountering extremes at work (danger, suicide, death, trauma). A psych ward social worker is likely to be exposed to all of the above.

Symptoms of compassion fatigue look a lot like depression: low mood, sleep difficulty, weight loss, fatigue, self-doubt.

How do you remedy the symptoms? The first approach is the one not often available to social workers: reduce work stress. If that's not possible, everything you'd recommend to a depressive client is likely to be helpful. Sleep, meditate, eat better, take up a hobby, find social support.

For a social worker aiming to pass the social work licensing exam, all those helpful tools can get squeezed out. Please remember to breathe and take care of yourself as you're exam prepping. The work you do and will do is important. Take care of yourself!

And good luck on the exam!

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Free Practice Question: Kid Trouble and the Social Work Exam

angry kid Here's something to help you get prepared to pass the social work licensing exam. It's part of our ongoing, intermittent, free question series. Put yourself in this social worker's shoes and figure out what you would do?

A woman tells a social worker that her son has been misbehaving wildly ever since starting kindergarten, over a month ago. He's angry and irritable, throwing frequent tantrums. He's defiant and argumentative over small things. And he's been exhibiting a troubling vindictive streak, cruelly evening the score with his younger sister, escalating petty squabbles into full-blown battles. "He's turned into a little monster," the woman says. What diagnosis is the BEST fit for the son, given the limited information the mother has provided?

A. No diagnosis is indicated

B. Oppositional Defiant Disorder

C. Intermittent Explosive Disorder

D. Conduct Disorder

What do you think?

Let's look at DSM criteria for the offered diagnoses and narrow our way down to an answer.

Conduct disorder is characterized by theft, destruction of property, and other serious rules violations. Not what's being described here.

Intermittent explosive disorder involves tantrums and a failure to control aggressive impulses over a year-long period. Closer, but not the best fit.

Oppositional defiant disorder looks good for this. It involves everything mentioned--anger and irritability, defiance, and vindictiveness. That's your best bet...but read the find print. To diagnose ODD, behaviors have to be present for six months. This month-long onset of symptoms looks to be connected to the start of a new school year--something many have first-hand experience with.

That leaves one answer: A, no diagnosis.

How best to help the distressed client and her son? That's a question for another vignette. But normalizing and assessing stressors from school seem like good places to start.

For lots more vignette practice covering the wide range of material that can appear on the social work exam, try our full-length practice tests. Get started here.

Happy studying!

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Free Practice Question: Cluster B Boss?

bad bossReady for another practice question? Here's a vignette about an truly awful boss. No reason!

A client reports that her boss changes his mind every day, likes to sow chaos and discontent among his employees, and is incapable of apologizing when he gets things wrong--even when he makes a staff member cry. The client wants to know what this cluster of behaviors is called. What can the social worker tell the client is the boss's likely diagnosis?

A. The boss has antisocial personality disorder.

B. The boss has narcissistic personality disorder.

C. There is not enough information to diagnose the boss.

D. The boss has impaired empathy.

What do you think?

As with a lot of social work exam vignette questions, you may find yourself recalling situations and people similar to those that appear in the vignette. "I've had a boss just like that...and he definitely had NPD." So you select answer B. But be careful! While bringing your personal experience into a question may give you helpful clues, adding details to what's in the vignette can get you into trouble. Is there really enough information in the vignette to meet criteria for narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder? Let's see...likes chaos, changes mind, can't apologize. Sounds like a deeply terrible boss. But given what's presented here, it's not possible to determine whether he meets DSM criteria for either disorder. There's just not enough information presented.

So that leaves two answers to choose from--no diagnosis or impaired empathy. The boss certainly sounds like he has impaired empathy. But you're being asked for a diagnosis; "impaired empathy" isn't a diagnosis.

In your work, clients may have asked you to diagnose a coworker or loved one based upon reported details. Even if you have a strong suspicion, the answer there is most likely going to be the same as the answer here: unless you've had a chance to sit down and formally assess the person, not enough information to diagnose.

That's one more type of question you're ready to face on the ASWB exam. The more practice questions to encounter the better. Get started with more than 900 practice questions by signing up. Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

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Free Practice: The Red Carpet and the Social Work Exam

red carpet Seems like a good day for a free practice question. Here's one based upon the updated NASW Code of Ethics. For lots more questions about social work ethics and most everything else you might encounter on the ASWB exam, sign up and choose full-length exams here.

A somewhat grandiose client, a successful businessman, boasts that he has started dating an actress, "the most beautiful woman in the world." He reports with pride that the relationship has "been in all the tabloids." The social worker, not a regular reader of celebrity gossip, wants to find out whether or not the client is telling the truth. Which is true about conducting an internet search on the topic in this situation?

A) It would be ethical since it would assist the social worker in correctly diagnosing and treating the client.

B) It would be unethical unless the social worker first obtains consent from the client to conduct the search.

C) It would be ethical only if the client has exhibited additional delusional symptoms.

D) It would be ethical since gathering collateral information is an important part of the treatment process.

What do you think?

Let's get to the correct answer by narrowing down, starting from the bottom. D) is a little general to be the correct answer. Collateral information can be an important part of treatment, but that's not enough to justify a possibly-unethical electronic search. Probably not the answer. Let's move on.

C) is closer. However, if the client is making up his story, it's probably connected with narcissistic personality disorder, not with delusional disorder or another similar diagnosis. Boasting and surrounding oneself with well-regarded people is a hallmark of NPD. Keep on going.

B) sounds clunky--how would the social worker ask the client for consent? "Can I Google that to find out if you're lying?" Hmmm...

A) jumps into an area not addressed by the vignette. Is the client undiagnosed? We don't know that from the text of the question. Yes, it's valuable to have an accurate diagnosis. But there are ethical considerations that must first be weighed. Once you see any mention of ethics, it's a good bet that the question is Code of Ethics-based. That's not what's addressed here.

Which brings us back to our least objectionable, most textbooky answer: B. Get consent, maybe without being clunky. (Try something along these lines: "I'd like to see that. Is it okay with you if I take a look on the net?"_Bookish answers are often the best ones.  Even if you didn't remember that there are guidelines about internet searches in the Code of Ethics, you could get to the answer with this type of elimination process.

To save you some clicking, here's that part of the code, added in 2017:

1.03 Informed Consent--(i) Social workers should obtain client consent before conducting an electronic search on the client. Exceptions may arise when the search is for purposes of protecting the client or other people from serious, foreseeable, and imminent harm, or for other compelling professional reasons.

Now you're ready to face a question like this on the exam. There's nothing like practice to get you prepped for the big test. Happily, we've got lots of practice questions ready to help you out. Enjoy your studying and good luck on the exam!

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Free Social Work Exam Practice

yacht life We get it. You're a social worker, not an investment banker. You're not looking to own a yacht. Nor are you looking to spend a bunch of money on your social work licensing exam prep. That's why we keep the prices for our practice tests nice and low. It's not that you'll be able to purchase a yacht with the money you save. But maybe you'll be a little less pinched. Just registering for the exam costs a non-trivial amount. If you end up having to take the exam more than once, it really adds up. (So, of course, try to pass it the first time!)

Here, to help with your reasonably-budgeted exam prep, is our ongoing series of free practice questions. These questions touch on a variety of subjects, but lean most heavily on the Code of Ethics and the DSM as content sources. And why not? You know you're going to encounter Code of Ethics questions. That's a big part of the exam at every level. And of everything that may appear on the licensing exam, DSM material is the most knowable. It's just info--you can cram it in your brain for a time and be ready to answer any diagnostic question you encounter.

So try out these questions. They're not exactly like the ones that appear in our practice tests--to get a better sense of SWTP practice, check out our free practice test.

If there's material you'd like to see us cover in future free practice questions, let us know. Our aim is to get you through this exam. We love getting pictures of social workers proudly posing with their pass sheets. (The rest of the blog, where the free practice questions live, is mostly made of up those.)

Happy saving, happy studying, and good luck on the exam! Congratulations in advance!

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