Pod Save Your ASWB Exam Prep

listening to the social work podcast maybe We used to blognounce every time a new episode of the Social Work Podcast came out. Now, instead of all those posts, you get a once-in-a-while reminder about all the exam-prep-friendly free content that the podcast has in its archives. That's what this is. Reminder: The SWP archives hold hours and hours of material on topics that are at the center of the ASWB exam outlines. Social work essentials that you need to know.

It's an easy, pleasant way to get the material learned and locked in. Some licensing-exam friendly topics are listed below. And here's a complete list of the podcast's past episodes, divided by topic. Tune in, use the knowledge gained on a few practice tests, then go in and pass the exam. Good luck!

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ASWB Exam Pratice—Erikson’s Stages

gothHere's a quick practice question to keep you on your toes.

A man brings his 16-year-old son to a therapy appointment to have him assessed for depression. His son has started wearing black and has dyed his blond hair black. The boy denies he's depressed and says that all his friends dress the way he does. According to Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, which crisis is the client experiencing?

A. Industry vs. inferiority.

B. Autonomy vs. shame and doubt.

C. Identity vs. role confusion.

D. Intimacy vs. isolation.

What do you think?

For a question like this, you can strip the stem down to its essentials: a teenager and Erikson. The question could be much simpler and ask the same thing: What is the central conflict for teenagers according to Erikson's stages of psychosocial development?

Either way, it's handy to know the stages. But even if you don't, you might be able to figure it out. Let's walk through the options together: Industry vs. inferiority. Sounds like middle school (it's actually 6-12). Autonomy vs. shame and doubt (sounds like infants or teens…let's leave that one for a second). Identity vs role confusion (sounds very teenage). Intimacy vs. isolation (sounds like the partnering years. 20s, say. And it is-20s-40s).

So, with this, we've narrowed down to autonomy vs. shame and doubt and identity vs. role confusion.

Which one sounds more like a teenager to you?

Think of the teenagers in your life. Think of  yourself as a teenager. Trying to develop a sense of self. Struggling with the question, "What do I want to do with my life?" Sounds like one of the options more than any of the others: C, identity vs. role confusion.

Sometimes "sounds like" is the best you can do on the ASWB exam. And that's fine. You don't need to have the answer immediately at your fingertips for every single question. If you can narrow to two options and take your best guess, that's sometimes the best you can do.

To avoid having the entire exam feel like mysterious guesswork, it's best to get to exposed to lots and lots of practice questions as you prep for the exam. And that's what we've got here (sign up to get started!).

Happy studying, good luck on the exam, and with whatever Eriksonian stage you're grappling with right now!

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What’s the difference between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder?

shadowThey sound alike and look alike. They're not the same thing. Here's how to tell the difference between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

The DSM devotes a chapter to Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders. Included there: delusional disorder (delusions without other schizophrenia symptoms), brief psychotic disorder (psychotic symptoms present less than one month), schizophreniform disorder (symptoms lasting for less than six months), catatonia, and substance/medication-induced and due-to-another-medical-condition psychotic disorder (describe themselves).

What's left: schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Here are the criteria for schizophrenia:

A. Two or more present for bulk of a one-month period: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and/or negative symptoms.

B. Symptoms disturb level of functioning.

C. Signs of disturbance last for at least 6 months.

D. Schizoaffective and bipolar disorder ruled out.

E. Symptoms not due to the effects of a substance or medical condition.

Schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed when these criteria are met. Watch for the difference. It'll come up right away:

A. A major mood episode concurrent with criterion A of schizophrenia.

B. Delusions of hallucinations for two or more weeks without a major mood episode during the lifetime duration of the disorder.

C. A major mood episode is present for the majority of the illness.

D. Symptoms not due to the effects of a substance or medical condition.

Specifiers for schizoaffective disorder include bipolar type, depressive type, and with catatonia.

TL;DR? They're very similar. Both include some combination of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and/or negative symptoms. But in schizoaffective disorder, a major mood episode is present most of the time (though not 100% of the time). Why not 100%? Because then you'd be looking at MDD or bipolar I with psychotic features. A topic for another blog post

So how do you boil this down into something simple and memorable? How about this: Schizoaffective disorder is like schizophrenia, but includes a big mood component generally occurring alongside psychotic symptoms.

ASWB exam preppers, see if the above helps you answer this question correctly:

A social worker sees a client who reports a lifetime of "seeing things all the time, shadows." He also reports hearing voices, "probably the NSA," which tell him he's "useless and stupid." The voices leave him feeling "pretty sad and really annoyed." Given the symptoms the client describes, what is the MOST likely of the following DSM diagnoses?

A. Major depression with psychotic features

B. Schizophrenia

C. Schizophreniform disorder

D. Schizoaffective disorder

What do you think?

The client appears to meet criteria for some psychotic disorder, given that he reports a lifetime of psychotic symptoms (hallucinations and delusions). The lifetime duration means schizophreniform disorder isn't the correct answer. Narrowing down between the three left standing depends upon your reading of "pretty sad and really annoyed." Sounds like the client gets in a bad mood due to his symptoms. Does that bad mood rise to the level of MDD? It does not. So scratch A. And while you're at it, since schizoaffective disorder requires MDD or bipolar disorder symptoms alongside schizophrenia symptoms, scratch that one as well. Now you're left with one answer, the correct answer as it happens: B, schizophrenia.

For more practice questions from the DSM, about psychotic disorder diagnosis, and other close-call social work situations, sign up with SWTP!


[Post by Will Baum, LCSW]

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What’s the Difference Between Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa?

signGiven the similarities between bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, binge-eating/purging type, there's room for confusion when making a diagnosis, whether on the ASWB exam or in real life. Let's take a look at what the DSM says about each.

What is anorexia nervosa?

Criteria for anorexia nervosa are as follows:

A. Restriction of energy intake leading to significantly low body weight.

B. Intense fear of gaining weight despite significantly low weight.

C. Disturbance in the way one's body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight shape on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of current low body weight.

What are the types of anorexia nervosa?

There are two subtypes in anorexia nervosa:

Restricting type. Weight loss accomplished primarily through dieting, fasting, and/or excessive exercise (not recurrent binging or purging).

Binge-eating/purging type. Recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging (self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas).

What is bulimia nervosa?

Criteria for bulimia nervosa are as follows:

A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating (overeating in a discrete period of time with a sensed lack of control regarding the eating).

B. Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain (e.g., self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications; fasting; excessive exercise).

C. Lasts once a week for three months.

D. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.

E. Does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa.

What's the difference between anorexia nervosa, binge/purging-type and bulimia nervosa?

Both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa involve negative self-evaluation of body shape and weight. Both involve behaviors to avoid weight gain such as self-induced vomiting. However, in anorexia nervosa, the disorder leads to significantly low body weight, where bulimia nervosa does not.

The difference is the ways severity is coded for anorexia and bulimia helps highlight the essential difference between the two diagnoses.

For anorexia nervosa, severity is based on body mass index (BMI). For example, "mild" indicates a BMI less than or equal to 17 kilograms per square meter. "Extreme" indicates a BMI of less than fifteen kilograms per square meter.

For bulimia nervosa, severity is based on the frequency of behaviors. For 1-3 episodes per week, a specifier of "mild" is applied. "Extreme" is used for 14 or more episodes per week.

The difference is not the behavior itself, it's the result.

Free ASWB Exam Practice

The ASWB exam often tests to assess knowledge of differentials between commonly occurring DSM disorders like anorexia and bulimia. A sample question:

A 17-year-old client who appears noticeably underweight reports frequently forcing herself to vomit after meals in order to "stay skinny for cheerleading." The MOST likely DSM diagnosis for this client is a type of:

A. Bulimia nervosa

B. Body dysmorphic disorder

C. Rumination disorder

D. Anorexia nervosa

Unless you're caught by the distractors, body dysmorphic disorder (which is not diagnosed when an eating disorder is present) and rumination disorder (not described here), knowing the difference between anorexia and bulimia quickly gets you to the correct answer. The client is "noticeably underweight." You have your essential information. The phrase "a type of" at the end of the question stem is an additional clue. The client is most likely suffering from anorexia nervosa, binge/purging-type. The answer is D.


[Post by  Will Baum, LCSW]

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Name That Defense Mechanism

defendedHere's a quick quiz that should help you lock down your ease with defense mechanism. What are defense mechanisms? Wikipedia wants to tell you:

A defense mechanism is an unconscious psychological mechanism that reduces anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli. Defense mechanisms are not to be confused with conscious coping strategies. Sigmund Freud was one of the first proponents of this construct.

Okay, but which defense mechanism is which? Here's a short list of examples, courtesy of Simply Psychology. You provide the name of the defense mechanism. Good luck!

1. A young man has no conscious awareness of his desire to hurt his father.

2. A smoker refuses to admit to herself that smoking is bad for one's health.

3. A person comes to believe that their anger toward a rival started with the rival's misbehavior toward them.

4. A person frustrated by their boss, goes home and kicks their dog.

5. An angry person feels relief from working long hours.

How'd you do? Answers are in comments.

There are more defense mechanisms where these came from. Read up on the sites linked above and also here:

To get realistic exam questions about defense mechanisms and much more in SWTP's full-length mock exams, sign up!

Good luck on the exam!


-- Will Baum, LCSW

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