Social Work Exam Practice: Narrowing it Down

tackleHere's another exam question that includes content you may not have encountered during your social work education, practice, or in your preparations for the ASWB exam. That doesn't mean you can't answer it. Common sense and good test-taking skills will get you to the correct answer on questions like these.

A 55-year-old man meets with a social worker after being diagnosed by his primary care physician with post-concussion syndrome. He has been experiencing short-term memory problems and can't return to his job as an electrician until his symptoms resolve. He has been experiencing depression since being out of work. What treatment interventions are likely to be MOST helpful?

A. Cognitive therapy to help him identify and replace cognitive distortions related to his memory loss.

B. Solution-focused therapy to help him identify what he can do to return to work.

C. The client is not a good candidate for services, since his depression is caused by a medical issue.

D. Short-term behavior therapy to help him find strategies to cope with his memory loss.

What's your answer? Are you sure? Commit to it. Maybe write it down on a piece of scratch paper. To get through the social work licensing exam means committing to 170 answers whether you're certain about them or not.

Let's take the answers one at a time.

A. CBT. Hmm, might work. But isn't CBT a little iffy when someone is encountering memory issues? Will the candidate be able to keep a thought log? Would he be able to identify and replace cognitive distortions? Let's mark that as a leans-no maybe.

B. Solution-focused therapy. Again, hmmm (not sure). Since the client is an electrician, there are safety concerns about his return to work. Is returning to work the first priority here? It may be that coping with the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome ought to take precedence. Let's plant another leans-no maybe. Leaning a little bit harder no this time.

C. No services. Is this ever the case? The client may not a good candidate for any and all services, but surely can benefit from some help. Looks like we can safely strike this one.

D. Short-term behavioral therapy. This doesn't feel like the perfect answer, but could it be the best of the bunch? It addresses the memory issue head-on while also addressing coping (aka decreasing the reported anxiety and depression). If you're guessing that post-concussion syndrome can lead to depression and anxiety, you'd be right. Learning strategies to cope with his memory loss may be helpful. Looks pretty good.

So we're left with two-and-a-half contenders. CBT, solution-focused therapy, and short-term behavioral therapy. Choosing the best of these isn't just about the interventions, it's about how they'd be used. CBT, sure. CBT is a wide-ranging collection of interventions. But CBT to address cognitive distortions? That's not really what's needed here. And we were already leaning no on solution-focused therapy.

Could D be the right answer?

Well, it may not be the best possible answer, but it's the best of the offered answers. If that's what you wrote down, then...congratulations. You got this one right.

Keep on practicing. Our full-length exams have lots and lots of questions, all with thorough rationales to get you good and ready come exam time.

Happy, safe studying and good luck on the exam!

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Social Work Exam Practice: When You Don’t Know the Content

harville-and-helen-home-hero-mobileHere's one from the discard pile, an exam question that requires some knowledge of Imago Therapy. Imago Therapy will not be on the exam. Even so, try the practice question and see if you can use your deduction techniques to get the right answer. Sometimes it's the how-to process, not content knowledge, that plays the essential part in reaching a correct answer. Here's the question:

In a an intake with a social worker, a couple reports experiencing high conflict and difficulty communicating. The social worker plans to use Imago therapy with the couple. What are techniques the social worker would MOST likely use?

A. Recommend each person attend individual therapy to help them discover what they are gaining from participating in the conflict.

B. Teach the couple techniques to improve their communication and identify productive conflict-resolution strategies.

C. Use a variety of techniques to help the couple uncover the unconscious reasons they became attracted to one another.

D. Help the couple learn how their thoughts contribute to their maladaptive behaviors and negative feelings toward one another.

What do you think?

So here's the how-to: You don't have to know Imago Therapy. You just have to know what isn't Imago Therapy. That is, can you identify what theory or technique each answer identifies. Let's take 'em one at a time:

A. Individual therapy instead. This doesn't sound like any theory in particular (though it may not be a bad idea). Imago therapy doesn't explicitly recommend separate individual therapy in place of couples counseling.

B. Teach conflict resolution. A very practical answer. And therefore probably not the right one. The word "Imago" evokes internal images, object relations, etc.  Something more psychodynamic. Pass on this for the time being.

C. Uncover unconscious motivations. Ah-ah, now we're getting somewhere. Mark this as a possibility and power through.

D. Address thoughts. You know what that is, right? CBT. So scratch that answer.

Really just one good answer is left standing. The correct answer: C. And, sure enough (if you want to look it up), Imago Therapy views conflict as a symptom of deeper relationship issues originating in childhood wounds, and uses a variety of behavioral and spiritual techniques to help people address those unmet needs.

Hope that helps. The moral of the story is that you can learn more from each practice ASWB exam question than just the content covered in the question stem.  That's why we've got thorough rationales for each answer of each question of the full-length SWTP practice tests. If you haven't already, check 'em out.

Happy studying, stay safe, and good luck with the exam!

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ASWB Exam Practice: Family Systems

familyNew, free practice question.

A family meets with a social worker following a teenage daughter's breakup with her boyfriend. The mother states that she really liked the boyfriend and has felt very depressed since the breakup. The father has tried to contact the boy in hopes of repairing the relationship. According to a family systems theory-based approach, what is MOST LIKELY happening in this family?

A. The family has connected relationships.

B. It is a disengaged family system.

C. It is an enmeshed family system.

D. It is a separated family system.

What's your answer?

Let's take 'em one at a time:

A. A connected family enjoys time together but also have separate friendships and interests. This family appears too involved in one another's business to be truly connected.

B. Disengaged families have very little emotional connection, usually don't spend much time together, and aren't impacted by one another's activities.

C. The mother's depression following the breakup, and the father's attempt to repair the relationship, are signs that this family is enmeshed. Let's keep going though!

D. Separated family systems don't have a lot of shared connections, though they do have a few activities they enjoy doing together.

Okay, that leaves just one clear answer: C, enmeshed.

Family systems lingo changes from theorist to theorist, practitioner to practitioner, but the core concepts are fairly stable. Here's a good page about Bowenian concepts which sort-of function as mini social work exam vignettes.

Ready to get serious about your ASWB exam prep? Sign up to start with full-length exams! Not just one question at a time; 170 questions at a time. Each with thorough rationales and suggested study links. Have some extra time on your hands? Use it.

Happy studying and good luck on the exam.

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Free Social Work Exam Question: Encopresis

mountain toilet

A mother and her twleve-year-old son meet with a social worker after the child was referred by his primary care physician, who has diagnosed the boy with encopresis. The boy makes it clear he doesn't want to talk about the condition and doesn't want to meet with the social worker. What treatment goal is likely to be MOST effective in reducing symptoms of encopresis?

A. The child will learn to identify and replace cognitive distortions that contribute to his feelings of shame.

B. The child's mother will establish a behavior plan that rewards him for using the toilet at regular intervals.

C. The child will learn to talk to his mother about his feelings about encopresis in family therapy.

D. The child will learn to talk openly about the encopresis to reduce his shame and embarrassment.


What do you think?

Let's take the answers one at a time. Remember you're looking for a treatment goal, not an intervention.

A. Identify cognitive distortions (intervention: CBT). Replacing cognitive distortions might be effective in reducing the child's shame but won't likely reduce his behavioral symptoms. So, no.

B. Behavior modification--rewarding the child for regular toilet habits--is likely to reduce the child's symptoms. This one's in the running. But always read through all answers. There may be a still better answer in the bunch.

C. Voice feelings. While there may be a psychodynamic route to symptom reduction in this case, having the child talk about his feelings about encopresis in family therapy isn't likely to reduce his symptoms.

D. More talking. Talking about his symptoms might help reduce this child's embarrassment but won't likely resolve his encopresis.

So, really only one contender this time. Which makes it easier than many questions on the ASWB exam, which often have two decent answers doing battle. This time, provided you aren't drawn to the CBT and talk-therapy options, you've got your answer without too much difficulty: B, behavior mod.

To read up about encopresis symtpoms and treatment, here's a good resource. To keep preparing for the social work licensing exam, you're already in the right place. Sign up to get started with full-length exams.

Happy studying, stay safe, and good luck on the exam!

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ASWB Exam Practice: Risk Assessment

office talkHere's a free social work exam practice question to keep you sharp:

On an initial intake with a community clinic social worker, a client reports that he made a threat to a co-worker and was given a leave of absence from work as a result. He says that he needs a note from the social worker stating he is able to perform the duties of his job so he can return to work. How should the social worker proceed?   

A. Describe the criteria the client will need to meet in order to receive the requested note.   

B. Tell the client that the social worker cannot help with the requested note to his employer.   

C. Seek consultation regarding the social worker's ability to write the requested note.   

D. Tell the client he must attend an anger management group before the note can be written.

What do you think…? Are you sure…?

Let's take the answers one a time.

A. This is great if you know all that material. But what are the chances the social worker has the full picture here? It's premature to start spelling out criteria for a note.

B. Social workers can write notes just like the one requested. A hard "no" isn't necessarily appropriate here.

C. When you don't know, ask. This answer is a contender.

D. This answer tries to lure you in to making hasty conclusions about what's going on. Rely on the evidence presented. In this case, a client report about a threat isn't enough to take decisive action on. Avoid answers that assume information not clearly spelled out in the question. Pass on this.

Which leaves us with a best of the offered answers: C, consult.

Did you get it right?

Generally speaking, conducting a risk assessment that determines if the client should return to work is a specialized skill. The social worker (who we're not led to believe has these special skills) should seek consultation to discuss whether or not writing the note is within the social worker's scope of practice and expertise.

And remember, the very best answer may not be offered in the multiple choice question. Where's "seek collateral information"? Not included here. You're tasked with picking the best of the offered answers, whether it's the very best course of action or not.

The ASWB is a gatekeeper. The org's job is to ensure that license social workers know how to operate safely and ethically within the scope of social work practice. Don't expect to see many questions about obscure theories on the ASWB exam. The test is designed to assess whether you have the essentials understood:  what's ethical, what's safe, and what's a social worker's job.

Know that Code of Ethics. Have common sense. And keep taking practice tests to make sure you're reading closely, carefully, and with ever-increasing wisdom about how the exam works and how to pass it.  Sign up up with us to get started.

Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

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