Friday, September 23, 2016

KSA of the Day: Techniques for Stress Management

Here's an ASWB exam content outline item that may come in handy before and after you sit for the social work licensing exam: Techniques for Stress Management.

Social workers experience all manner of stressors, even in ideal work situations. Burnout, secondary trauma, and collapsing self-care are common. Figuring out how to manage your own stress--by making changes to what you face and how you face it--is a great first step in being able to help clients with stress management. And knowing some (widely accepted, empirically validated) techniques to lessen stress may have the additional benefit of getting you through a question or two on the test!

To get started with the "how you face it" solutions, here's a list from the Mayo Clinic.
  • Autogenic Relaxation
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Visualization
  • Deep breathing
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Biofeedback
  • Music and art therapy 
 Most of these you may have encountered or tried. But what's that first one refer to again?
Autogenic relaxation. Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this relaxation technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress.
You repeat words or suggestions in your mind to relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a peaceful setting and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or feeling different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.
Ah, okay, thanks Mayo Clinic! Here's another list from the NIH
  • Autogenic Training
  • Biofeedback-Assisted Relaxation
  • Deep Breathing or Breathing Exercises
  • Guided Imagery
  • Progressive Relaxation
  • Self-Hypnosis
The NIH page takes a look at the research about relaxation's effects on various conditions. E.g., anxiety:
Studies have shown relaxation techniques may reduce anxiety in people with ongoing health problems such as heart disease or inflammatory bowel disease, and in those who are having medical procedures such as breast biopsies or dental treatment. Relaxation techniques have also been shown to be useful for older adults with anxiety.
On the other hand, relaxation techniques may not be the best way to help people with generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental health condition, lasting for months or longer, in which a person is often worried or anxious about many things and finds it hard to control the anxiety. Studies indicate that long-term results are better in people with generalized anxiety disorder who receive a type of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy than in those who are taught relaxation techniques.
Important to note: social work's systems/holistic/biopsychosocial/macro view will often point a different direction. Instead of sharing techniques to reduce the effects of stress, social workers should find ways to help clients advocate to reduce the stressors themselves. Don't be too surprised if a question tries to lure you in with appealing distractors like autogenic relaxation when the real, BEST answer is to make changes around, not within, the client.

Hope that helps. Good luck with the exam!

Friday, September 16, 2016

KSA of the Day: Client Self-Determination

We've been hopping around in the ASWB's KSA outline for a while now. Let's jump down to the bottom today, into the Value Issues section, part C of Professional Values and Ethics, which makes up 18% of the exam. The nice thing about these KSA items is this: you probably already know your way around professional values and ethics in social work. And if you don't, or want to get refreshed on social work values and ethics, there's just one, simple place to turn: the NASW Code of Ethics.

Take this KSA: Client Self-Determination. It's in the code a couple of times. First in the Ethical Principles, up top:

Value: Dignity and Worth of the Person

Ethical Principle: Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.

Social workers treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity. Social workers promote clients’ socially responsible self-determination. Social workers seek to enhance clients’ capacity and opportunity to change and to address their own needs. Social workers are cognizant of their dual responsibility to clients and to the broader society. They seek to resolve conflicts between clients’ interests and the broader society’s interests in a socially responsible manner consistent with the values, ethical principles, and ethical standards of the profession.

Want it more spelled out? The code is ready to do just that, in 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.

Social workers don't have to agree with everything their clients believe and do. Gently exploring pros and cons is one thing, but imposing values and judgments on clients is another.

How might this show up on the social work licensing exam? Take a look at this free practice question from SWTP to get an idea. If a client isn't planning to do harm to self or others--imminent harm--social workers are to back off. Clients get to choose how to live their lives. Sometimes it's hard to watch, but that's all part of being an ethical social worker.

For more about client self-determination, take a look at these Eye on Ethics columns from Social Work Today: Making Difficult Decisions and The Challenge of Paternalism in Social Work. But really all you have to do is read the above section of the Code of Ethics, and you're up to speed!

Good luck on the exam!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Social Work Exam Quiz: Name That Psychotherapy II

Here's a second installment in our Name That Psychotherapy series. The first quiz is here.
We've grabbed some descriptions (or description fragments) from Wikipedia's long list of psychotherapies and left you to match the descriptions with one of the listed therapy approaches. Today's task: Name that psychotherapy

1. _________________, a therapy in which subjects confront their fears and discontinue their escape response.

2. _________________ is focused helping people change patterns of behavior that are not helpful, such as self-harm, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.

3. _________________ seeks to help people identify their values and the skills and knowledge they have to live these values, while challenging dominant discourses that it claims shape people's lives in destructive ways.

4. _________________ asserts that a person's development is determined by often forgotten events in early childhood rather than by inherited traits alone.

5. _________________ suggests that the way people relate to others and situations in their adult lives is shaped by family experiences during infancy.

Maybe the (fairly vague) descriptions are enough for you. If so, wow! If not, here's a list of ten possibilities to weed through. The right answers are in there.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Object-relations psychotherapy
Systematic desensitization
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
Play therapy
Narrative therapy
Existential psychotherapy

Answers in comments!

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!