Monday, August 8, 2016

KSA of the Day: Risk Factors Related to Suicide

Here's an item on the ASWB exam outline that's good to have a deep understanding of whether or not you're prepping for the social work licensing exam: Risk factors related to suicide.

This is knowledge that can be tested for in all different manner of licensing exam questions. The ASWB exam focuses on safety above just about all else. Correctly identifying suicide risk is a vital first step in keeping clients safe. This is material worth knowing.

As you're reviewing risk factors for suicide, it's good to take note of these words from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions lead fulfilling lives.
This intro is followed by a good list of risk factors. As usual, the internet has the answers to your exam-prep questions well answered. We won't waste time writing lists from scratch, but instead point you to a few valuable sites to get up to speed on this KSA. Here you go:
There are plenty more good lists just a web search away. But these'll get you the knowledge you need on the test--and in practice. Use them well. Good luck! 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Name That Disorder II

Here, back by popular demand, is another DSM-5 quiz. What you do: Name the disorder based upon the single criterion provided. Got it? Easy (if you know the disorder!). And...go.

1. A repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated.

2. Recurrent behavioral outbursts representing a failure to control aggressive impulses.

3. Deliberate and purposeful fire setting on more than one occasion.

4. Consistent failure to speak in specific social situations in which there is an expectation for speaking.

5. Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.

Answers are in comments.

Remember, actual ASWB exam questions don't tend to look like these. Expect vignette-style test questions that don't readily lend themselves to one, obvious answer. On the exam (and on good practice tests), you can usually narrow down to one of two answers without too much difficulty. Choosing between the two that remain is the tricky part. But you can do it. Happy studying and good luck with the exam!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Quick Quiz: DSM Scramble

See if you can quickly unscramble these DSM-5 terms. Build your social work muscle and maybe have a little bit of fun. These are sadly not the type of questions that show up on the ASWB exam. Expect longish vignette questions about BEST and FIRST interventions and anticipate trouble deciding between two best answers. But this should be a good, quick DSM workout for you.

Here's the quiz. Answers in comments!

1. Medical name for substance known as angel dust.


2. Recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal


3. Recurrent and intense sexual arousal from observing an unsuspecting person who is naked, in the process of disrobing, or engaging in a sexual activity: _____________ Disorder


4. A marked incongruence between one's experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender: _________ ________

ndeerg sdhyapori

5. Condition characterized by stupor, catalepsy, waxy flexibility, mutism and other symptoms.


How'd you do?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Really Learning the NASW Code of Ethics

We've pointed readers before to Social Work Today's "Eye on Ethics" column. Well, we're doing it again! Comfort with the NASW Code of Ethics is crucial to passing the ASWB exam. Reading Frederic Reamer's column is a great way to develop and strengthen that comfort.

You may know the code. But do you know how to apply it in close-call situations of all types (not just the ones you've encountered in social work practice)? That's what a whole lot of the licensing exam will ask you to do. Such and such happens that's ethically iffy. What is the BEST way for the social worker to proceed?

That's exactly what "Eye on Ethics" articles focus upon. Just look at the last batch published:
From the "to post" column:
One of Mr. N.'s clients, Jack S., was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. The client's medical prognosis was poor. Mr. N., who believed in the healing power of prayer, posted a request to his online faith-based community...
Sounds like the start of a social work exam question, doesn't it? It goes on:
One of Mr. N.'s colleagues at the substance abuse treatment program was a member of the online faith-based community to which Mr. N. belonged. The colleague read Mr. N.'s online post and was very concerned that Mr. N. may have breached Jack's privacy...
Actually, this one's not too close-call as far as ethics questions go.  But click through and read. There are dozens of articles there. Write practice questions in your mind as you go. Really learn the ethics code. Pass the ASWB Exam!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

KSA of the Day: The Concept of Empathy

Empathy is either the bread or butter of social work. But which? That's not a question you're likely to see on the ASWB exam. But "the concept of empathy" is on the knowledge skills and abilities list. Do you have the concept down? Can you define it? How is empathy different than sympathy?

Here's a simple conclusion from a blog-post long answer on the subject at
Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.
You might see this on the exam as a "which statement exemplifies the use of empathy"-type question. Watch out for distractors that involve sympathy, mirroring, congruence, or some other clinician behavior that isn't empathy.

Whether or not an empathy question comes up in the exam, it'll come up every day and every way in social work practice. Check with yourself: Are you expressing sympathy with clients at the expense of empathy. Sympathy has its place, of course. But expressing authentic empathy is the bread and the butter of good social work practice.

For more on the topic, try:
Happy reading, happy studying. Not enjoying it? We feel your pain.

Good luck on the exam!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

KSA of the Day: Substance Use Disorders

Next up in our hopping around through the ASWB exam outline: substance use disorders . It's part of the Addictions section of the outline, a subset of HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, DIVERSITY AND BEHAVIOR IN THE ENVIRONMENT, which all-in-all accounts for 31% of exam questions.

What exactly do you need to know about substance use disorders? The outline doesn't say. But since substance use disorders also shows up in the DSM, you have all the more reason to get them understood.

We're not going to spell out all of the details about the topic here. But we can link you to some helpful sources of info. Start with these:
PsychCentral summarizes DSM-5 criteria like this:

The DSM-5 states that in order for a person to be diagnosed with a disorder due to a substance, they must display 2 of the following 11 symptoms within 12-months:
  • Consuming more alcohol or other substance than originally planned
  • Worrying about stopping or consistently failed efforts to control one’s use
  • Spending a large amount of time using drugs/alcohol, or doing whatever is needed to obtain them
  • Use of the substance results in failure to “fulfill major role obligations” such as at home, work, or school.
  • “Craving” the substance (alcohol or drug)
  • Continuing the use of a substance despite health problems caused or worsened by it. This can be in the domain of mental health (psychological problems may include depressed mood, sleep disturbance, anxiety, or “blackouts”) or physical health.
  • Continuing the use of a substance despite its having negative effects in relationships with others (for example, using even though it leads to fights or despite people’s objecting to it).
  • Repeated use of the substance in a dangerous situation (for example, when having to operate heavy machinery, when driving a car)
  • Giving up or reducing activities in a person’s life because of the drug/alcohol use
  • Building up a tolerance to the alcohol or drug. Tolerance is defined by the DSM-5 as “either needing to use noticeably larger amounts over time to get the desired effect or noticing less of an effect over time after repeated use of the same amount.”
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping use. Withdrawal symptoms typically include, according to the DSM-5: “anxiety, irritability, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, hand tremor or seizure in the case of alcohol.”
The two sites above should cover you, but for more reading on substance use disorders try:
Off topic: We mentioned outline sections above. What are the sections of the outline, you ask?
That's the full 100%. If it's not included in one of those main areas, it's not going to be on the social work licensing exam.

Happy studying and good luck!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

KSA of the Day: The Effects of Trauma

Here is a cluster of bullet points from the Human Behavior in the Environment section of the ASWB Clinical Outline to take a look at as you prepare for the social work exam:
  • The effects of abuse and neglect on victims
  • The effects of trauma on behavior
  • The effects of trauma on self-image
All are addressed at some length in on this page from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). At the start:
The majority of abused or neglected children have difficulty developing a strong healthy attachment to a caregiver. Children who do not have healthy attachments have been shown to be more vulnerable to stress. They have trouble controlling and expressing emotions, and may react violently or inappropriately to situations. Our ability to develop healthy, supportive relationships with friends and significant others depends on our having first developed those kinds of relationships in our families. A child with a complex trauma history may have problems in romantic relationships, in friendships, and with authority figures, such as teachers or police officers.
Trauma and abuse can be experienced at all ages, of course, but the effects of trauma are somewhat universal. Covered on the page, trauma's impact on:
Attachment and Relationships
Physical Health: Body and Brain
Emotional Responses
Self-Concept & Future Orientation
Long-Term Health Consequences
Economic Impact
Assessing for and helping with trauma is one of the central features of what social workers do. Do not be surprised to see the ASWB exam touching upon the topic.

For more reading about the effects of trauma, try: