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Social Work Exam Practice–Client Fired for Missing Work

Haymarket AffairHere's a holiday-themed free practice question to help get you ready to pass the ASWB exam:

A client tells a social worker that he was fired after no-showing for work on Labor Day. He plans to sue his former employer for wrongful termination. What can the social worker tell the client about his legal standing?

A. The social worker should refrain from advising on legal matters and refer the client to a lawyer.

B. Suggest the client find an attorney on his own.

C. Discuss other issues that may have led to the client's getting fired.

D. Let the client know that, in most states, employers aren't required to give days off on federal holidays.

What's your answer?

Let's do what we always do--take the answers one at a time.

A. Refer to a lawyer. Law is out of the scope of practice for social workers, but knowing a little something about law can come in handy. Let's put a pin in this one. It's a maybe.

B. Suggest client find attorney. This is less helpful than the first answer, so probably not the right one. Strike it.

C. Discuss past issues. This is tempting. "Discuss" is almost always tempting. Let's mark this as maybe also.

D. Inform client about law. Hmm, is this right? Is this an overreach for a social worker? If you're a social worker, particularly if you've worked in a residential setting, you've probably been asked to work holidays, even the big federal ones like Labor Day. So it can't be that no one works on federal holidays. Come to think, plenty of businesses are open on holidays. So this could be right. Let's maybe this one too.

That leaves three maybes (more than the usual two): Refer, discuss, or inform. There's no acronymed guideline that will give you the right answer in this case. In some questions, each type of offered answer will be right. Refer will be correct in a scope of practice question. Discuss will be right in a rapport-building and therapy skills question. Inform will be right in a more fact-based question. So which one is this?

Well, if you already know that businesses are not required to give days off on federal holidays, you know there's no reason to refer to an attorney. There's also not a lot to be gained by discussing the client's past job performance. Which leaves a best answer: D) Inform the client--tell him the facts of his situation.

One additional clue that this might be the right choice: the question asks what the social worker can tell the client about his legal standing. D is the only offered answer that actually does that.

As ever, one answer doesn't rule out the other answers. It's just the best answer. Think of it this way: a social worker has time to give one answer and one answer only to a client. Which should the social worker choose?

Make sense?

Hope this helps as you tackle more and more practice questions, and, eventually, the real 170-question ASWB exam itself. Speaking of practice, we've got a ton here. Hit Sign Up to create an account and get started!

Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

(PS Some Labor Day history here. Good to know.)

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Free Social Work Exam Practice: Vaxxed and Positive

covid testHere's a new, free practice question to help you get ready to pass the ASWB exam. See how you do.

A social worker tests positive for COVID-19, though she has been vaccinated and has no symptoms. According to the CDC, what should the social worker do FIRST?

A. Notify close contacts about the diagnosis.

B. Contact the local health department about the diagnosis.

C. Self-quarantine at home for 10 days.

D. Mask and maintain social distancing for 10 days.

What's your answer?

This is a COVID question, yes. But more simply, it's a FIRST question. The FIRST is there for a reason. Let's take the answers one by one and see how the FIRST plays its part.

A. Notify close contacts. A good idea and a strong contender for correct answer. But before choosing it, let's look at the other choices…

B. Contact the local health department. This is generally left to medical providers. And isn't a top-level health and safety securer. Since it's not as good an answer as A, seems okay to strike it and move on…

C.  Self-quarantine. Also a strong answer. Looks like there's maybe going to be a showdown. One more to go…

D. Mask and maintain social distancing. This does not adhere to CDC recommendations. Bad answer. Scratch it.

It is a showdown, as anticipated: Notify Close Contacts vs. Quarantine. Both are recommended by the CDC (see " What To Do If You Have COVID-19"). But one of them potentially leaves the social worker out and about, shedding and spreading the virus. You can contact people from anywhere--from work, the mall, etc. The first order of business--FIRST, that is--is to go home and avoid others. Pretty simple, once you think it through. You may have been distracted by the social worker's being vaxxed and having no symptoms. Neither matters when it comes to protocols following a positive test.

Sometimes you don't have to know anything about a topic to get the right answer. You can just apply common sense. That's more-or-less the case here.

Looking for more on the topic? CDC guidance on COVID-19 lives here.

Stay safe, happy studying, and good luck with the exam!

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Free Social Work Exam Practice Question: Vaccine Hesitancy

face maskLet's look to the headlines again as a source of a free social work exam practice question. The ASWB exam will generally avoid fleeting topical questions, but the underlying issues here are exactly like what you'll encounter on the real exam. Really, just about any conflict you encounter at work--or in life--might be shaped into a social work exam question. "A client reports a difficulty with…" [insert your conflict details here] "...What is the BEST way for the social worker to respond?" Right? Something like this:

A social worker in a community clinic has a client who is worried he will get fired from his job because he refuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The client says he doesn't trust the vaccine because "it's too experimental." He also refuses to wear a mask and says that "people look at me funny" when he goes shopping maskless. How should the social worker FIRST respond?

A. Explore the client's possible projection regarding the vaccine and the funny looks he reports receiving.

B. Discuss the possibility of job loss due to vaccine hesitancy.

C. Discuss the health risks involved in foregoing the COVID-19 vaccine.

D. Explore the client's understanding of the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine.

How would you answer?

One way to get to the correct answer, ask yourself  "How would I respond in this situation?" Then add, "What would a 100% by-the-book social worker do in this situation?" Where the two overlap is usually your best answer.

You might be inclined to call in a nurse to administer a vaccine on the spot (not an offered answer). But that wouldn't be by-the-book--pushing the vaccine on a client doesn't respect client self-determination. Or you might be inclined to agree with the client about the danger of the vaccine. That wouldn't be by-the-book either (and it's also not an offered answer here)--social workers aren't doctors and shouldn't be giving medical advice (especially advice that directly contradicts medical professionals).

Let's look at the answers that are offered:

First, explore projection. Is the client imagining persecution at work and elsewhere due to his vaccine hesitancy? Maybe. It's an interesting avenue, but not the all-caps FIRST priority.

Second, discuss possible job loss. That's more pressing, for sure--let's put a pin in that one.

Third, discuss health risks. Also a good answer. Let's set this one aside too.

Fourth, explore the client's rationale for his vaccine hesitancy. Also an interesting conversation to have, and a tempting answer. You might argue that discussing the science will get you to the health risk and job loss issues. Maybe it will, but then again, maybe it won't. Surely, job loss and health risks are the top priorities here.

But which one is the very top priority? Which one--job loss or health risk--is the most essential to address right away? Answer: health risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has been many things, but primarily it's been a public health problem. If the client gets sick, he won't be able to work. The reverse isn't true. Health comes first.

Does the client understand health risks associated with COVID-19? Maybe he believes he can't get the virus. Or maybe he believes with Q-Anon that the pandemic is a manufactured fiction. That'd be important to know. Does he understand the efficacy of the vaccine? With these questions answered, then the social worker can get the client to expand on his "too experimental" fears. Again, health comes first.

Health and safety always come first. That's true in life and it's especially true on the exam. Everything else can be addressed later. That understanding gets you right to the correct answer. Another good way to get to the correct answer: look back at the question. What essentially is it about? The client's emotional state? Employment? Possible paranoia? Those are all there, but it's really the COVID vaccine that's at the heart of the question. The vaccine is medical. The answer (re health risks) is medical. If you're BEST/FIRST answer on the ASWB exam doesn't sync up with what's essential about the question, you need to have a good reason you're straying from the core quality of the question stem.

Got it? Great! Now you're even more ready to go pass the ASWB exam.

To get really ready, check out SWTP's complete 170-question licensing exam practice tests (plus the two booster). There's nothing like realistic practice to get you prepared for the real thing. Get started (and receive our free study guide) by signing up now.

Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

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Social Work Exam Content: Self-Determination

downtownSelf-determination shows up multiple times in ASWB exam content outlines. Here's how self-determination appears in the clinical outline's Professional Values and Ethics section:

  • Techniques for protecting and enhancing client/client system self-determination
  • Client/client system competence and self-determination (e.g., financial decisions, treatment decisions, emancipation, age of consent, permanency planning)
  • The client's/client system's right to refuse services (e.g., medication, medical treatment, counseling, placement, etc.)

Three appearances? That tells you something. This is a topic worth knowing-not just for the social work licensing exam, but for social work practice.

Okay, so what's to know? Let's first open up the NASW Code of Ethics for basic principles. Here's the section, which appears right up top in Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to Clients:

1.02 Self-Determination

Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals. Social workers may limit clients' right to self-determination when, in the social workers' professional judgment, clients' actions or potential actions pose a serious, foreseeable, and imminent risk to themselves or others.

What does this mean in practice? Julie Fanning puts it nicely in her article, If I Were My Client I Would…:

Clients often make life choices we wouldn't choose for ourselves.  Sometimes people prefer to be homeless rather than live in an apartment.  Sometimes people will choose to cheat on their spouse.  Sometime people will stay in a job that seems to be completely unhealthy.  Someone could choose to not take psychotropic medication and still function in the community.   A client's religious or other cultural values might feel abhorrent to you but it is not on the social worker to change them but to meet the client where they are at and let them live their own destiny.  It can be frustrating for a social worker because you want so much for your client's to be successful.  Each of the clients we work with know themselves better than we know them.

If you were your client, you'd do things your way. But clients don't have to do things your way. They get to choose. That's self-determination.

How might this look on the exam? Exam writers might grab any of the examples from the above paragraph and throw them into a vignette. Like this:

After many months of effort, a social worker finds a Section 8 apartment for a homeless client. After seeing the apartment, the client says he prefers to sleep on the street. "I like the open air," he says. The social work is worried that the client's judgment is impaired and that he is putting himself in unnecessary danger. How should the social worker intervene?

Right? Thinking like an exam writer, what options would you include? One correct answer (the self-determination one) is required. Plus a couple of look-good-but-aren't-the-right-answer choices. And maybe one clearly wrong one. Something like these:

A. Convince the client to try the apartment out for a month before deciding.

B. Discuss the pros and cons of apartment versus street living with the client.

C. Bring up the client's decision in a group setting so he can hear from others in a similar situation.

D. Insist that the client try the apartment for his own safety.

How would you answer?

Taking the options one-by-one. A has "convince." That's acting on the social worker's worries, not the clients self-determination. Not the answer. B has "discuss"-usually a good idea (except sometimes in imminent harm situations where more decisive action is indicated). Put a pin in it as a maybe. Answer C involves eliciting help from group members. This might be an effective way to shame the client into a safer decision, but again, the client can make a dangerous choice. It's his choice to make. Finally, D, "insist." Pass.

That leaves B and C as the only viable answers. One doesn't involve shame or using others to bend the client to the will o the social worker. So, there you have it. The correct answer is B.

Got it? Great! Will this be on the exam? Very likely. Maybe not exactly in this form, but the basic concept is a crucial part of social work and something the ASWB will often test for. Now you're ready!

Find more questions about self-determination and many, many other topics on our full-length practice tests. Sign up to get started.

Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

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Free Social Work Practice Question: Vaccine Line-Skipping for Sale

vaccineHere's a free social work exam practice question ripped from recent headlines. Most of the ASWB exam will be involve more timeless social work topics. But exam writers are people too. Don't be surprised to see current events folded into exam questions. One way to add some additional prep to your day: when you encounter a provocative news item, consider how it might be transformed a social work licensing exam item. Like this:

A social worker has a regular client who has been underemployed and struggling during the pandemic. He says he has now found a way to get and sell special sign-up codes that allow people to skip the line and get early access to the COVID-19 vaccine. How should the social worker respond?

A. Contact the local health department regarding the breach in vaccine protocol.

B. Explore the client's feelings about his new enterprise.

C. Contact the CDC regarding the breach in vaccine protocol

D. Explore the client's feelings about his role in the breach in vaccine protocol.

How would you answer?

First, notice there are two types of answers, "Contact" and "Explore." So initially, you can approach this as an ethics question. Does the client's behavior warrant a breach of confidentiality. (And look, there's that word in the question itself.) What do you think? Should the social worker contact someone about the client's enterprise? The code-selling isn't victimless, to be sure. But it does not meet the criteria for breaching confidentiality. Take a look back a the confidentiality section of the Code of Ethics if that doesn't seem right to you.

That leaves two "Explore" responses. Which one of those is the better choice? Explore the client's feelings…about his new enterprise (vague, non-judgmental) or …about his role in the breach of vaccine protocol (more specific, more judgmental).

Here's the thing: while you have intense judgment about a client's behavior, it generally does little good for the therapeutic relationship to voice that judgment. The ethics of selling line-skipping privileges certainly warrants discussion here, but the vague first "Explore" answer doesn't rule that out. Instead, it allows the client room to voice his own misgivings (or not).

Of the four offered responses, that's the best one: B, explore (gently).

Helpful? This is just a taste of how practice questions with thorough rationales can help you prep for the ASWB exam. Get started with SWTP's full-length, 170-question practice tests by signing up (we'll send you our free study guide when you create an account). There's nothing like realistic, real-time practice to get your ready for the big test. It worked for these people and countless others. You're next. Happy studying and good luck!

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