Friday, November 13, 2015

The Social Work Exam Cram Plan

One way to prepare for the social work licensing exam--cram:

"This is probably not for everyone. But I got busy and was planning to study longer but didn't. My exam date was suddenly just two weeks away and I hadn't cracked a book. I thought I was probably doomed.

I studied anyway, just in case I wasn't. I talked to people about what to prepare for and most people said just focus on the NASW Code of Ethics and on the basics in the DSM. So I did that, which didn't really take that long. I didn't make index cards or anything, I just read things over and made sure it was sinking in. (Which is not that easy. You mind wanders if you try to read the Code of Ethics front to back!) I looked over the basic theories about child development and about the basic types of therapy I don't already know from work. (I'm lucky that I get a lot of training at work, so I didn't really need to reread CBT and DBT materials.) After all that I did a few practice tests and, wow!, it seemed like maybe I was going to pass..

On the morning of the exam, I was nervous, but not panicked. I went for a short run. I forced myself to eat. I drove to the exam site. I took the exam. It was over before I knew it. I wasn't sure how I'd done. I hit the button and winced. Good news! I passed! Yay!"

Some people take months to prepare. Some take weeks. Some don't study at all. However you end up preparing, you can pass this exam! Good luck!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Free Social Work Exam Questions

SWTP's been busy generating a series of free questions based upon each section of the NASW Code of Ethics. (Sound familiar.) As of this writing, 1.01 - 1.04 have been covered. So, four free questions and explanations. If they continue on through the entire code, that'll be, um, lots of free questions. (If you feel like counting the sections in the Code, please go ahead and let us know what you get!)

You can search "Ethics" or "Practice" on the SWTP blog. Or we'll make it easy for you. Here are the free exam questions.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to the Broader Society

On the exam and in social work practice, you're likely to be faced with questions about the boundaries of your social work role. What's your job and what's not? Here's an easy way to think about these questions: Prescribing medicine and other doctor-y stuff--not your job. Advocating for clients at all levels, micro to macro--your job. Here's where the macro part of the social work role is spelled out in the NASW Code of Ethics:

6.01 Social Welfare
Social workers should promote the general welfare of society, from local to global levels, and the development of people, their communities, and their environments. Social workers should advocate for living conditions conducive to the fulfillment of basic human needs and should promote social, economic, political, and cultural values and institutions that are compatible with the realization of social justice.
6.02 Public Participation
Social workers should facilitate informed participation by the public in shaping social policies and institutions.
6.03 Public Emergencies
Social workers should provide appropriate professional services in public emergencies to the greatest extent possible.
6.04 Social and Political Action
(a) Social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully. Social workers should be aware of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote social justice. [This section continues on A-D]

If a social worker sees a client encountering an injustice due to agency policy, what should the social worker do? Act. If the injustice is due to local ordinances? Advocate. To structural problems in the larger society? Work to effect change. If you're taking the MFT exam, the answers are different. But this is social work. This is the social work exam. Know your role. Get active, get licensed! Good luck!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Client Access to Records

When was the last time you read--really read--the NASW Code of Ethics? If it was within the last week or so, maybe every word of the section below looks familiar. For everyone else, here's a refresher:

1.08 Access to Records

(a) Social workers should provide clients with reasonable access to records concerning the clients. Social workers who are concerned that clients’ access to their records could cause serious misunderstanding or harm to the client should provide assistance in interpreting the records and consultation with the client regarding the records. Social workers should limit clients’ access to their records, or portions of their records, only in exceptional circumstances when there is compelling evidence that such access would cause serious harm to the client. Both clients’ requests and the rationale for withholding some or all of the record should be documented in clients’ files.
(b) When providing clients with access to their records, social workers should take steps to protect the confidentiality of other individuals identified or discussed in such records.
This is a good section for exam writers. The Code guidelines may run contrary to the instincts of most social workers. "Show a client her chart? Don't want to!" But the Code says you're supposed to. So when a question looks like this:
Detail, detail, detail...a client asks to see their chart...detail, detail...What should the social worker do?
The correct answer is the one that grants access while avioding "serious misunderstanding or harm." Which may be a close call. But that's what lots of social work, and lots and lots of the social work licensing exam, are about. 
Know it, answer it, pass it. Good luck!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Free Study Guide

SWTP has just posted a twenty-something page free study guide which includes seven free practice questions, free rationales, free study links, free study tips, free anxiety reduction help... You get the idea. It's a social work exam study guide and it's free. (You just have to sign up on the site.) Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sex and the Ethical Social Worker

Ethical social workers do it with ____________. Documentation? Unconditional positive regard? Countertransference? You provide the joke. We'll provide this quick reminder that knowing the NASW Code of Ethics is the best way to get prepared to tackle the ASWB exam. Here's a section that shows up again and again on the social work licensing exam:
1.09 Sexual Relationships
(a) Social workers should under no circumstances engage in sexual activities or sexual contact with current clients, whether such contact is consensual or forced.
(b) Social workers should not engage in sexual activities or sexual contact with clients’ relatives or other individuals with whom clients maintain a close personal relationship when there is a risk of exploitation or potential harm to the client. Sexual activity or sexual contact with clients’ relatives or other individuals with whom clients maintain a personal relationship has the potential to be harmful to the client and may make it difficult for the social worker and client to maintain appropriate professional boundaries. Social workers—not their clients, their clients’ relatives, or other individuals with whom the client maintains a personal relationship—assume the full burden for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries.
(c) Social workers should not engage in sexual activities or sexual contact with former clients because of the potential for harm to the client. If social workers engage in conduct contrary to this prohibition or claim that an exception to this prohibition is warranted because of extraordinary circumstances, it is social workers—not their clients—who assume the full burden of demonstrating that the former client has not been exploited, coerced, or manipulated, intentionally or unintentionally.
(d) Social workers should not provide clinical services to individuals with whom they have had a prior sexual relationship. Providing clinical services to a former sexual partner has the potential to be harmful to the individual and is likely to make it difficult for the social worker and individual to maintain appropriate professional boundaries.
Questions based upon this section write themselves. Write one yourself! Here's a quick one: 
A social worker sees a familiar face at a party. They talk and hit it off. They realize that the person was someone the social worker did an intake with once when she was still an intern. According to the NASW Code of Ethics, would it be ethical for the two to start a romantic relationship? 
A) Yes 
B) No 
C) Only if the relationship is sex-free 
D) Only if two years have passed.
What's your answer? Don't know? Reread the 1.09. It's in there. 
Good luck in your dating life and good luck with the exam!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How I Passed the Social Work Exam

Here's a first-person account of studying for, and passing, the social work licensing exam: 

"I'm happy to report that I PASSED the exam. The main piece of advice I have is "keep your cool." I was surprised by how much of the exam was like a day at work (I work in a community clinic). The DSM diagnosis questions were mostly about the diagnoses that are common at work. Some of the vignettes either had happened or could happen at my job. The thing that helped me was remembering that the correct answer to a question is not the same as how you would handle the situation in the real world. The right answer is the what would you do if you worked inside a textbook. Give the textbook answer, not the real world one. That's the one they're looking for. 

Keeping cool is really important day to day when you're a social worker. It's also really really important when you take the exam. You might get thrown when you don't know the answer to a question right away. It's no big deal. Twenty of the questions don't even count towards your score! Just answer the best you can and move on. You can always mark questions and come back to them if you have time. Yes there are a lot of questions, but a lot of them you will be able to answer quickly.

Take a breath, Remember the practice tests you've done. Remember the work you've done. And remember those textbooks! You'll do fine!"

Congratulations in advance!

Here are some links that should come in handy as you prepare:

And, to help you keep your cool: