Monday, October 26, 2015
Here are some favorites, new and old, obvious and less-obvious, worth checking out:
The NASW Code of Ethics. Did they hand Code of Ethics booklets out at graduation? That was free. So is this online version. A test-preparation essential.
ASWB.org - The ASWB administers the exam. The exam content outlines live on their site and are free of charge.
Study Guide for the Social Work Licensing Exam - SWTP's free offering, includes basics, study tips, and some free exam practice questions. After the Code and the Exam Content Outlines, a good place to start.
The Social Work Podcast - Great explorations of social work topics, many relevant to the exam--especially the ones about various psych theories.
Eye on Ethics - Dr. Frederic Reamer's long-running column in Social Work Today presents a wide variety of dilemmas similar--or perhaps identical--to the ones you'll face on the exam.
This is just a starter list. Also don't forget Wikipedia--good for deepening understanding about pretty much any social work topic you can think of. Other free, info-rich sites are a Google search away. If you've found ones you think are especially great, don't hesitate to share them in comments. Thanks and happy studying.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
For review: DSM-5 changes (APA); DSM-5 changes (Psych Central); DSM-5 (Wikipedia)
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
- Normal Autistic Phase (First few weeks of life; achieve equilibrium)
- Normal Symbiotic Phase (Up till around 5 months old; develop dim awareness of caretaker)
- Separation-Individuation Phase (divided into three phases:)
- Hatching (5-10 months; exit autistic shell)
- Practicing (10-16 months; locomotion and accompanying anxiety about separateness)
- Rapprochement (16-24 months; mobility, language, reuniting)
Will Margaret Mahler show up on the social work exam? Don't count on it. But...it's not unheard of. Good luck.
For further review: Margaret Mahler at Wikipedia; chart of stages via PsyEd.org
Friday, February 06, 2015
- Behavior modification
- Behavior therapy
- Brief psychotherapy
- Client-centered psychotherapy
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Existential therapy
- Family therapy
- Freudian psychotherapy
- Gestalt therapy
- Group therapy
- Motivational interviewing
- Object relations psychotherapy
- Play therapy
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy
- Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)
- Reality therapy
- Rogerian psychotherapy
- Sandplay Therapy
- Solution focused brief therapy
- Systemic therapy
- Transtheoretical model
- Twelve-step programs
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Here, to encourage you in that, are section-by-section links to part four of the code, Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities as Professionals. It's buried in the middle of the code's six sections--not first, not last, not least.
Monday, September 22, 2014
1. Try CBT. Study while you self-soothe. If you don't already use CBT with clients, try it out on yourself as you're exam prepping. CBT is evidence-based treatment for anxiety and therefore very likely to turn up on the social work licensing exam. It's also very likely to help you out of upward-spiraling anxiety. Under the CBT umbrella fall countless useful interventions. Start with the basics. Do a thought log regarding your feelings about the social work licensing exam. What are your fears? How realistic are they? Thought logging can help you challenge your automatic negative thoughts and replace them with a more realistic assessment of the exam-prepping process. Then go from there...
2. Increase self-care. (This is really the "B" in CBT, but let's count it as a separate item.) Studying for the exam adds one more thing to a social worker's usually wildly busy day. It doesn't have to be the thing that throws your entire life out of whack. While you may have to cut back on some self-care traditions that have been helpful in the past (e.g., hours of zoning out in front of the TV), keep track of your overall self-care and make sure it's dialed up, not down. Look at the fundamentals: exercise, sleep, nutrition. You're worth it!
3. Remember past coping. Social workers see clients who have found their coping resources outstripped by their circumstances. Still, they find ways to help. Exam prep time is ideal for turning your best social work interventions back on yourself. Be strengths-based. What's helped you in the past? Dig through your coping toolbox and put that stuff back to work for you. You know best how to manage your anxiety.
And... If you really want to take anxiety reduction seriously, write yourself an exam anxiety treatment plan complete with goals and objectives. Remember, your well-being is more important than the letters that follow your name! Good luck.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Distraction is one of those things everybody is worried about— certainly every parent, with the iPhones and people jumping on Facebook and so on. And of course if you're spending your entire time tooling around on Facebook, you're not studying, so that's a problem.
However, there's a whole bunch of science looking at problem-solving. In problem-solving, when you get stuck, you've run out of ideas, distraction is really your best friend. You need to stand up, let it go — walk around the block, go to the cafe, drink a beer, whatever it is— and that is really your best shot at loosening the gears a little bit and allowing yourself to take a different and more creative approach to the problem.
If answering exam vignettes isn't "problem-solving," I don't know what is. So, set down the practice tests, step away, catch a breath. Just make sure you get back to studying sooner than later. Happy studying. Good luck on the exam!
Sunday, August 10, 2014
So, here are a few acronyms pulled from the web (original sources u/k). If you have others--known to the world, or creations of your own--please feel free to share them in comments.
Please use them with caution. These acronyms may end up creating confusion, not decreasing it. Feel free to ignore them completely. Instead of FAREAFI, when in doubt, go with your knowledge of the NASW Code of Ethics, go with your textbook social work learning, and go with your gut. It's a fair bet that more people pass that way than do using acronyms.
That said, here we go:
FAREAFI. This may come handy in FIRST and BEST questions--if unsure about what the FIRST/BEST intervention would be, start with F (feelings) and go from there):
- F: Feelings of the client be acknowledged first above all. Begin building rapport.
- A: Assess
- R: Refer
- E: Educate
- A: Advocate
- F: Facilitate
- I: Intervene
- A: Acknowledge client concerns and Assess
- S: Start where the patient is.
- P: Protect life.
- I: Intoxicated? Do not treat.
- R: Rule out medical issue.
- I: Informed consent.
- N: Non-judgmental.
- S: Support self-determination.
Sunday, August 03, 2014
From the ASWB which administers most exams--just not California:
No content related to DSM-5 will appear on the exams until July 2015. [Everywhere but California.]That's most people--49 states plus Canada. If you're taking the exam between now and July, '14, study DSM-IV-TR. People in sunny CA have to put down their surfboards and get their DSM-5 knowledge together sooner. From the California BBS:
Exam administrations December 1, 2014 and after: DSM-5 [California only.]Two different exam administrators, two different times to expect to see DSM-5 questions on the exam. Since everyone's eventually going to be using DSM-5 diagnoses, the California people may have an advantage in that they don't have to dig into two different DSMs. But it's not hard to imagine a big, everywhere-but-California sigh of relief at getting to push that particular information loading down the road some.
Wherever you are, whichever DSM you're learning, good luck!
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
- Social Justice
- Dignity and Worth of the Person
- Importance of Human Relationships
For further review: The NASW Code of Ethics, and, perhaps, Social Work Values and Ethics.
Monday, June 30, 2014
For further review: Solution-focused brief therapy at Wikipedia, and assorted SFT books via Amazon.
Monday, June 16, 2014
DBT clients learn to use their "wise mind" (the just-right blend of emotion and reason) with the help of a series of acronyms (e.g., "DEAR MAN," and "ACCEPTS")--simple guides to a long list of coping skills. DBT has been shown to be helpful for clients with and without BPD. Given its research orientation, targeted symptoms, and apparent effectiveness, DBT is precisely the type of approach you can expect to see show up on the social work exam.
For further review: DBT at Wikipedia and the Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder, by Marsha Linehan.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Also valuable for preparing for ethics questions is Frederic Reamer's Eye on Ethics column from Social Work Today. Many of the dozens of columns contain their own vignette questions, exploring close-call situations that social workers often face. These closely resemble the very scenarios that you'll be asked to consider as you sit for the exam.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
The cognitive piece gets the most attention in the CBT literature. The notion is that thoughts are the first stop in our reaction to any given experience. We think, then we feel and act. In CBT, special care is taken to examine those thoughts and determine if they hold up to close scrutiny. Is the thought rational, based in evidence, or not? Irrational thoughts usually are one of several types, included on the list of cognitive distortions (e.g, "mind reading," "fortune telling," "jumping to conclusions").
CBT is practical, interested in evidence, and, more than many other approaches to psychotherapy, has ample evidence showing that it is effective with a wide range of mental health issues (not least, anxiety and depression). For all of these reasons, you can be fairly certain you will encounter questions about CBT on the social work licensing exam.
For further review: Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Basics and Beyond, by Judith Beck.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Interested in helping blog about the exam? Have questions you'd like to see answered here? Write thelcswexam [+] gmail. Looking forward to the coming years of helping you get licensed!
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
To that end, I have designed a brief (5 question) survey for the readers of this blog. If you could take a few moments to fill it, I would appreciate it. This will help me focus my energy and writing into the most needed areas.
Click here to take the Online Survey
Monday, February 02, 2009
I have had an internal debate about what I want to do with this blog. Do I want to just leave it alone and post occasionally (when the mood strikes or an email I receive asks a particular question)? Do I want to make a concerted effort to post more material pertaining to taking the exam? Do I want to work on more exam preparation material?
For me, answering these questions comes down to (1) the service this blog is providing for others and (2) a cost-benefit analysis related to my time. I am writing my dissertation at the moment and that certainly takes up a majority of my time. I know I have asked this before and received a few responses from folks. However, I am asking for your help in determining the direction of this blog. Is what is here enough? Would you like to see more information, and what shape should that information take to be most helpful? The more you can help me understand how you use this blog, the better I can decide where to go in the future.
Monday, December 01, 2008
The links will take you to a copy of the book on Amazon with prices and its associated reviews. If you have other resources that would fit with particular theories pass them along and I will try and add them to each list as appropriate.
Thanks for reading.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
The first thing to try and combat my own neuroses about these questions was take them to my supervisor. I would ask him the questions I missed and give him the answers. Interestingly enough we would often agree on the first things we would do, and we would often be wrong according to the materials. How did this seeming exercise in futility help me?
First, it gave me another opinion on the exam. My supervisor was an MSW, DSW and had been in public and private clinical practice for many many years. Hearing his opinion on the question helped me believe in my own gut instincts related to Social Work practice. It also added some perspective to the questions and answers.
Second, our conversations helped me laugh a bit at the exam and alleviate some of the stress and discomfort I was experiencing related to taking the test. Thankfully, we had the kind of supervisory relationship where we were able to talk freely and laugh at both our successes and failures. The relationship provided me an opportunity to study for the exam and understand that Social Work practice is a complex entity that cannot be fully encapsulated in multiple choice questions.
Finally, our conversations helped me reframe the questions so that I could take my incredulity out of my reading of the questions and answer them as best I could. For me, that reframing of the question proved vital. When I would encounter a question that me what I would do first, I would read the question as "Blah, blah, blah, what would the book do first in this situation?" (Usually with the first part of the question replacing the blah, blah, blah). I needed to "divorce" myself from the question so that I could think as the materials would want me to and answer the question appropriately.
So, how might this help you prepare?
(1) If you still have a supervisory relationship, use it for preparation when you have the opportunity. Bounce your missed questions off of the supervisor and learn from their experience in the field. If you don't have this kind of relationship, then find a Social Worker whose practice you admire and sit down with them and ask for their help. You may find that they answer a question the same way you do and you can feel some vindication. They may answer it "correctly" and can help you understand their rationale.
(2) Find a way to put the questions into words that you can stomach. Social work is a wonderful, diverse and complex discipline. Not everyone practices it in the same manner, nor should we. However, the exam attempts to measure your knowledge according to the assumption of a "perfect" world practice. Therefore, we have to put aside some of the methods we have learned and enter a "perfect" world in order to answer the questions as asked. Read the question with whatever reframing you find most helpful, then answer according to your understanding of the study materials you used rather than the experiences you have. Your experiences are important, yet for the exam your ability to study and recall is more important.
Good luck in your studies, I hope this helps.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
From time to time I will receive emails from people who are preparing to take the exam or who have taken it and not passed. Inevitably, these emails include some request for advice about how to study or prepare for the exam. So, I thought I would cull the advice I have given over the past year or two into one post.
I am not doing this so that you will no longer email me. I do the best I can to respond to each one that I receive. I also know that I will not cover every anxiety or frustration with one post, but for those who like lists and things in a neat little package here are my tips for passing the exam.
- Think about the way you study best and do that more often. There are a myriad of materials out there to help you prepare for the exams. These range from practice exams to study guides to study guides with practice exams, etc. Most, if not all, of these guides are dry as a bone and merely regurgitate the material you need to know to pass the exam. They have their formulas for getting the material across to you. However, they do not know you best, you do. So, take the materials you choose to study and adapt them to the ways in which you learn. For me, this blog is the result of the way I learn. I needed to re-write the material I was studying in my own words in order to really get a grasp on it. Instead of a pen and paper I took to my laptop and wrote a series of notes that became my study guide. All of the posts on this blog concerning the theories and methods were the result of my homemade study guide. So, think about the ways you learn: flashcards, quizzes, study groups, putting things in your own words, etc. and adapt the study guides to your taste not vice versa.
- The exam doesn't care how you practice social work. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn and it took me a while to really grasp its meaning. My impression of the exam is that it does not measure real world application of Social Work principles and guidelines; instead, it measures "ideal" (read textbook) applications of these principles. One of the helpful things I took into the exam was a sense that I needed to reframe the questions so that my answers reflected not what I would do first but what "the book" would do first. Therefore, when I encountered a "what would you do first" question I could usually eliminate two of the responses right off the bat. Then I would generally choose the more conservative response from the remaining choices. This may not work for all of these questions but it helped me get into a frame of mind that had me answering questions as the book would want me to answer them rather than the way I think the questions should be answered.
- The exam measures your ability to remember data. This is not an exam that measures the efficacy of your practice or your ability to help people in a way that empowers them. This exam measures your skills at memorization. Now, I realize this is a fairly cynical view of a standardized test. However, I cannot think of another way to put it. The national exam was created as a method to take the subjectivity of licensure committees out of the process and have an "objective" tool that measures knowledge of social work practice and principles. If you don't pass the first time around, it says absolutely nothing about how good a social worker you are. The only thing a failing score reveals is that you might need more time memorizing the material and putting it to use the way the test wants you to.
- The exam is not always "right." The earlier you give up fighting the questions and their "right" answers, the earlier you can get on with studying the material as needed. I remember studying for the exam and talking with my supervisor about some of the questions and answers. He and I would read some of the questions and talk about how we would answer them given the choices on the test. In each one of these Q&A sessions there would be one or two questions that we would agree on that the test would count as wrong. He had his doctorate in social work and was a successful private practitioner for many years and he still couldn't always get the right answers according to the test. You have to remember that the correct answer for the test may not be your way of answering the question, but it is still the correct answer. Unfortunately, you will not get very far by arguing with the computer over which "answer" you should perform first in a particular situation. Instead, study for the purpose of the exam and remember that the real world is a lot messier than answer A, B, C, or D.
- You have already passed. Remember that the exam is merely the culmination of a long road of clinical practice and supervision. To get to this point in your career you have most likely been through 100 hours of supervision and thousands of hours of clinical practice. Your supervisor has signed off on your capabilities as a social work practitioner. People have come to you for therapeutic help and returned again and again because they believe you can help them. All in all, to get to the point where you can even take the test requires the implicit and explicit approval of a number of people in your life. They know you are a good social worker, regardless of the outcome of your exam. The LCSW exam does not prove that you are a good social worker, that you care about the self-determination of others, or that you stand for justice and provide a voice for the voiceless. Clients wouldn't return if you were a bad social worker, supervisors wouldn't sign the necessary forms if you weren't a good clinician. The fact of the matter is that you have a crowd of people who know that you are ready to take the exam and approve of your doing so. In essence, you have already passed the difficult part; the exam is more a formality than a gate-keeper.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Most of what you will find here are brief explanations of the theories and methods of clinical social work practice. My reasons for writing it in the past were twofold. First, it helped me study for my exam. Second, the guides I found online were poorly edited and provided little value for the money you paid for them.
As I think about writing new posts for this blog I am working hard to convince myself of its usefulness for others in need. In that vein, I would ask what you, the people who find this medium and information helpful, would like me to post on this blog. The clinical theories and methods are relatively complete, are there other areas that seem information heavy that could be dealt with here and provide a service to others taking the exam?
What do you think? What information could I provide here that would be helpful for you (and others) taking the LCSW national exam?
If I don't hear anything I will assume that I have provided the necessary information for your benefit. If I do hear something then I will attempt to provide what information I can in as timely a manner as possible.
Feel free to email me or leave a comment in this post.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Better still, post on the more trafficked study group bulletin board at SWTP.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
The exam breaks down in this way:
Human growth and development - 22% of the questions
Diagnosis and Assessment - 16%
Clinical Theories and Practice - 16%
Professional Values and Ethics - 10%
Communication - 8%
Therapeutic Relationship - 7%
Diversity - 6%
Service Delivery - 5%
Clinical Practice and Management - 5%
Clinical Supervision, Consultation and Development - 4%
Research - 1%
I spent most of my time working through the first seven things on this list. This blog was my study guide as I wrote and rewrote the theories and methods in my own words.
The first seven categories make up 85% of the exam, and I figured if I knew them well enough to answer most of the questions related to their content accurately then I would have a good chance of passing the exam.
I did not neglect the other portions of the exam, I made sure I knew enough to make an educated guess with relationship to their content and to be relatively sure I would get about half of them right. I can't remember my score exactly, but I believe it was between 78-85, enough to pass in my jurisdiction.
I hope this helps, good luck to all who are taking the exam.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
The goal of Gestalt therapy is the integration of a unified self. Gestalt therapists use several techniques to achieve this goal. There is a focus on the here-an-now, questioning is discouraged, clients are encouraged to use “I” language to accept responsibility for their actions, clients further encouraged to claim responsibility using overt language, the use of role-playing and the empty-chair technique are designed to help clients externalize internal conflicts, finally, dreamwork is used to examine parts of the self that may not be fully accepted. Gestalt therapy is best used with clients who have the intelligence and education to withstand some of the confrontive techniques it uses.
For further review: Gestalt Therapy Integrated: Contours of Theory & Practice
Archetypes are part of the collective unconscious and play a role in personality development. The most important archetypes include: the self, the persona, the shadow, the anima and the animus. Jung also posited four basic psychological functions of which one is generally in use by the conscious at all times. These four basic functions are: thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting. For Jung, maladaptive behavior consists of a message from the unconscious that something has gone awry or that a task needs to be completed. Jungian therapists rely on interpretations in order to help people bridge the gap between the conscious and the unconscious in order to resolve conflict. Dreamwork and counter-transference also play significant roles in Jungian Analysis.
Adler believes that maladaptive behavior is the result of taking on a mistaken style of life. In order to combat this Adler believed that therapists should establish a collaborative relationship with the client, understand their style of life, and help the client reorient their beliefs and goals. Adler proposes six techniques to further enhance this process, which include: the lifestyle investigation, study of dreams, interpretation of resistance and transference, role-playing of desired behaviors, paradoxical intentions, and encouragement and advice.
Karen Horney viewed maladaptive behavior as the result of anxiety directly resulting from a child’s interpersonal relationships. Sullivan proposed that cognitive factors played a role in development. He proposed that maladaptive behavior stems from parataxic distortions which involve the client’s inability to perceive a person in the present, instead they are conceived of as a significant person from the past.
Sullivan also thought of the therapist as a participant/observer and expert in interpersonal relationships. His thoughts were that the more people were aware of their interpersonal relationships, the more healthy they became.
Margaret Mahler’s theory of development is well-known in object relations. Through this theory she posits four stages of development. First there is normal autism which is an undifferentiated state where the infant is oblivious to the external environment. Second is the symbiotic phase the infant recognizes but does not differentiate between the self and the mother. The third phase is differentiation where the child (7 months) separates the self from the other and begins to recognize the differences inherent in each. Finally, the child (2 years old by now) reaches the stage of integration or rapprochement during which the self and the external object are perceived as independent and can have a relationship with one another.
In order to be healthy the child must move through these four stages and develop a coherent idea of self as apart from the other. If the development of early object relations is stunted then the individual will be unable to render the self and the other appropriately and become fixated on an earlier stage of development. The goals of object relations therapy are to provide support, acceptance and opportunity for the client to view themselves and relate to others in a meaningful way.
For further review: Object Relations...in Social Work Practice
Repression – is the most basic of all defense mechanisms, repression occurs when the drives of the id are forced into the unconscious and denied by the individual
Regression – occurs when a person retreats to a safer earlier stage of development
Projection – happens when a person attributes their own unacceptable needs and drives onto another person.
Reaction Formation – occurs when a person avoids a particular instinct by expressing its opposite.
Displacement – is the transfer of an instinctual drive from one target to a less threatening target.
Sublimation – is the acting out of a socially acceptable behavior as a direct reaction to the drive to do something unacceptable
Denial – is the admission of socially unacceptable impulses joined with the inability to attribute them to oneself
Introjection – is the ascribing of another’s thoughts and behaviors to the self in order to better control one’s own thoughts and behaviors.
Rationalization – is the interpretation of behaviors in a manner that makes them appear more rational or logical
Fixation – is the arresting of libidinal energy in an unresolved conflict
Undoing – is the repetition of a behavior in order to undo the effects of a past action.
Rather than seeing the client’s anxiety as situational, these therapies see them as pathological. The therapist takes on a participant observer role rather than being an active participant and focuses on the past rather than the current crisis.
For further review: Brief Dynamic Therapy
Crises tend to move through five stages: the hazardous event, a vulnerable state, precipitating factor, active crisis, and reintegration. Reintegration and a return to a previous level of functioning are the goals of the therapist using crisis intervention techniques.
Finally, there are several things that can be said about the types of interventions and treatment that are indicative of crisis therapy. In this form of therapy interventions are immediate, concentrate on limited goals, and focus on problem solving. Furthermore, the treatment is active and directive, encourages self-reliance, supports the client, is designed to give hope, and enhances self-esteem.
For further review: Essentials of Crisis Counseling and Intervention (Essentials of Mental Health Practice)
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
Systems theoreticians believe that systems interact in a way that maintains homeostasis. That is, they behave in a way that is balanced and somewhat flexible towards influence. The homeostatic state of particular systems can have both negative and positive connotations. Systems do what ensures their survival, and often this might include maladaptive behaviors in order to maintain homeostasis. A variety of techniques are used in systems theory to bring about changes. Systems therapists believe in peoples’ capacity and motivation for change.
For further review: There are a variety of books on different variations of family systems theory. Most of the ones I have found are expensive and thus I cannot really recommend a decent reader.
This information on group therapy will center on several factors to consider when thinking about the role that group therapy will have in your practice. For a better resource on group therapy, especially group psychotherapy, pick up the latest edition of Theory and Method of Group Psychotherapy by Irving Yalom (I think the 5th edition is the latest). Having been a co-therapist in both a psychotherapy and psycho-educational group I have seen the promises and the difficulties groups can have on the lives of clients.
Three practical considerations concerning groups are: the group, the therapy, and the therapist. Groups tend to work best when the members share similar ages, intelligences and developmental levels. Age is a primary concern with groups for adolescents and children, with developmental level playing a larger role in the adolescent area. Furthermore, gender should play a role in group selection with these age cohorts as well. Finally, there is some discrepancy in thought concerning the role of the problem in selection for a group. Evidence and thought both support homogeneity and heterogeneity.
Groups can also function as closed or open entities. Closed groups are often more task-oriented and function in a short-term fashion. In this form of group, the members are constant from beginning to end. In an open group, members come and go and the group does not really have a specified ending. These groups tend to be more psychotherapeutically oriented. Group size seems to be most effective when it ranges from 7 to 10 members.
Irving Yalom is the leader in theory and method of group psychotherapy. He posits three stages to a group. In the first stage group members are searching for a way to connect with one another and the group as a whole. This stage is dominated by a lack of depth to the communication as the group members feel one another out. In the second stage, group members begin to entrench themselves in particular roles and a social ethos begins to emerge. This stage is marked by an increase in resistance as the members realize they are going to have to “share” the therapist. The final stage is marked by the development of group cohesiveness. Here the group becomes genuine in word and action and a sense of group empathy emerges. Following the establishment of cohesiveness the group matures and much of its “real” work begins. Yalom also believes that the group becomes a small social reality for each individual where they play out their healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Therefore, the group becomes the place where maladaptive behaviors can be tested and reframed in relative safety.
The therapist plays a key role in the group, especially in the beginning stages. The therapist is responsible for creation and maintenance of the group and for building a safe atmosphere for cohesion to emerge. The therapist also keeps the group from wandering too far from its purpose through a gentle nudging back to the present atmosphere of the group. Co-therapists also offer a unique opportunity for group members to see others modeling appropriate behaviors, especially during conflict.
For further review: Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Fifth Edition
Without over-generalizing, several ideas should be considered when beginning therapy with an African-American. Therapists should pay heed to a people orientation, the extended family (including church), and a particular form of cultural paranoia. In African-Americans, a healthy form of cultural paranoia exhibits as a reaction of mistrust due to inherent racist structures in the predominant American culture. On the other hand, this must be distinguished from functional paranoia which is the general mistrust of all people and structures. This form of paranoia is seen as maladaptive to the individual.
Some guidelines when working with African-American clients include: adopting a problem-solving approach (such as solution-focused therapy), understanding the systemic influences on particular behaviors, fostering empowerment, attending to nonverbal behaviors, and don’t avoid the issue of racism.
Some characteristics that American Indians might share include: a naturalistic outlook that views harmony between humans and nature as a good thing, an emphasis on extended family, present oriented, cooperative, and will listen more often than speak. Therapy can take on a collaborative approach that emphasizes problem-solving while validating the client’s experiences and culture. Trust and flexibility are a must. As well, therapists should understand that particular behaviors may have cultural roots rather than pathological roots. Finally, the use of the community as part of the healing process can be helpful as well.
When working with the Asian population the therapist can expect the client to understate the problems they are experiencing. Furthermore, modest can be expected as well as difficultly talking about family matters and sexual issues. One source of stress for the immigrant population is assimilation especially at the end of the first year. In addition, conflict between generations and degree of acculturation often occur. The therapist should use a directive approach to alleviate specific symptoms and expect more nonverbal and indirect communication from the client. The therapist should focus on establishing creditability, providing immediate benefit and being aware of issues of shame.
Hispanic clients vary depending on issue of acculturation. They are more likely to emphasize family over individual welfare, focus on interdependence, have difficulty discussing problems, are more concrete, and have “magical” beliefs about God or other powers. Family therapy can be helpful because of its extended reach and multi-focus inventions. Exploring the information that the client shares is important for both rapport and interventions.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
For further review: Existential Psychotherapy, Love's Executioner & Other Tales of Psychotherapy, Man's Search for Meaning
For further review: The Carl Rogers Reader, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy
For further review: Maps of Narrative Practice, Narrative Therapy, Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends
Sunday, July 09, 2006
For other states I would recommend a Google search containing the keywords: social, work, boards, (your state)
Assuming you have completed the required supervisory and clinical hours, the application and payment will need to be filled out and sent in. Then the state board will approve the application and send further instructions for taking the national exam.
Registration for the national exam is through www.aswb.org. Once you are approved you sign up with them, pay another fee, and pick your date and location.
One other place to get information about licensure is through your supervisor or another licensed social worker. It would seem, to me at least, that those who are lisenced and provide supervision should also have information regarding the requirements and steps needed to fulfill the process.
Finally, different states have different concepts of "preparedness." Therefore, check the state website for what you might need before applying. Furthermore, due to a lack of initiative or the inability to agree, there is little reciprocity between states. Therefore, your license in Virginia is no good in Colorado until you fill out the Colorado application, pay the fee, and hope they approve of the work you have already done.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance
- Having a comorbid DSM-IV disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder is often diagnosed in those who have another anxiety disorder, a mood disorder or substance-related disorder
- Having a family member who suffers with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Being female (it is twice as common in women)
- Having a history of frequent losses or severe childhood fears
- Having a poor psychological disposition (irrational thinking, negative thinking, overgeneralizing)
- Being neurotic or excessively conscientious
- Experiencing a number of overly stressful life events
- Healthy childhood development
- Appropriate parental attachments
- Strong social supports
- Knowledge and use of stress management techniques
- Optimism and self-confidence
- Psychotherapy: behavioral approaches involving coping skills, relaxation and medication
Systems Perspective (chart, p. 42)
- Systems are made up of interrelated members that constitute an ordered whole
- Each part of the system impacts all other parts, and the system as a whole
- All systems are subsystems of other larger systems
- Systems maintain boundaries that give them their identities
- Systems tend to move towards homeostasis, or equilibrium
A key term in the systems perspective is Role, which is described as the behaviors that a person assumes as a part of a particular social position.
Conflict Perspective (chart, p. 45)
- Groups and individuals try to advance their own interests over the interests of others
- Power is unequally divided, and some social groups dominate others
- Social order is based on manipulation and control of nondominant groups by dominant groups
- Lack of open conflict is a sign of exploitation
- Social change is driven by conflict, with periods of change interrupting long periods of stability
Rational Choice Perspective (chart, p. 47)
- People are rational and goal-directed
- Social exchange is based on self-interest, with actors trying to maximize rewards and minimize costs
- Reciprocity of exchange is essential to social life
- Power comes from unequal resources in an exchange
Social Constructionist Perspective (chart, p. 51)
- Actors are free, active and creative
- Social reality is created when actors, in social interaction, develop a common understanding of their world
- Social interaction is grounded in language customs, as well as cultural and historical contexts
- People can modify meanings in the process of interaction
- Society consists of social processes, not social structures
Social constructionist positions seem to occupy a majority of the thought in philosophical and therapeutic realms that embrace postmodernity. It has a close relationship with contextualism and is helpful in narrative forms of therapy.
Psychodynamic Perspective (chart, p. 53)
- Emotions have a central place in human behavior
- Unconscious, as well as conscious, mental activity serves as the motivating force in human behavior
- Early childhood experiences are central in the patterning of an individual’s emotions, and therefore, central to problems of living throughout life
- Individuals may become overwhelmed by internal and/or external demands
- Individuals frequently use ego defenses to avoid becoming overwhelmed by internal and/or external demands
Developmental Perspective (chart, p. 55)
- Human development occurs in clearly defined stages
- Each stage of life is qualitatively different from all other stages
- Stages of development are sequential, with each stage building on earlier stages
- Stages of development are universal
- All environments provide the support necessary for development
Behavioral Perspective (chart, p. 57)
- Human behavior is learned when individuals interact with the environment
- Similar learning processes taking place in different environments produce differences in human behavior
- Human behavior is learned by association of environmental stimuli
- Human behavior is learned by reinforcement
- Human behavior is learned by imitation
- Human behavior is influenced by personal expectations and meanings.
Several key terms function in this perspective. First, Classical Conditioning Theory (Pavlov), uses the relationship of conditioned and unconditioned stimulus to describe the reasons for a particular behavior. Second, Operant Conditioning Theory (Skinner, Watson), uses reinforcement as the primary motivator for behavior. Finally, Cognitive Social Learning Theory (Bandura), uses imitation and cognitive processing as the primary motivators in developing a behavior.
Humanistic Perspective (chart, p. 59)
- Humans are “spiritual, rational, purposeful, and autonomous” (Monte, 1995, p. 665)
- Human behavior can be understood only from the vantage point of the phenomenal self—from the internal frame of reference of the individual
- People make psychologically destructive demands on each other, and attempts to meet those demands produce anxiety
- Human behavior is driven by a desire for growth and competence, and by a need for love and acceptance
The humanistic perspective has its roots in philosophy and grew through existentialism (Kierkegaard, Nietzche, Camus, Buber, Tillich). Rogerian therapeutic paradigms are probably the quintessential example of the humanistic perspective. Maslow’s work also fits into this perspective.
For the purpose of assessment, these eight perspectives provide an introduction to the possible forms of information that one can gather about an individual’s situation and self. I have to believe that no one can use one perspective exclusively. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the basics of each so that we can utilize their features and theories when particular forms of information appear. Furthermore, while we do not operate out of one perspective totally, we often favor one perspective over others. In order to best serve our clients it is necessary to realize our perspectives and their biases.
- An inability to maintain a healthy or minimum body weight
- A distorted body image
- An intense fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight
- An excessive emphasis on weight
- The denial of the seriousness of their condition
- In females an additional characteristic is the cessation of the menstrual cycle.
- Having a history of dieting (diets do not cause, instead all eating disorders originate through dieting attempts
- Being female (95% of diagnoses are in females)
- Having a parent in the family system who is overly concerned with weight issues
- Being a prepubscent or adolescent female (due to the incongruence of actual and ideal female body types portrayed in cultural situations)
- Biological predispostion.
- Psychological characteristics: distorted thinking, low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, perfectionism, and fear of rejection
- A history of trauma, sexual or physcial abuse
- Socio-cultural factors such as media or peer influences.
- Psychological characteristics: high self-esteem, internal locus of control, high self-efficacy, mature defense mechanisms and coping strategies
- Personality characteristics: easy temperment, ability to make and maintain friendships, optimism
- Secure attachment to a parent
- Good parental adjustment. Parents with healthy attitudes towards weight and food can pass these along to children
- Socio-cultural factors: low levels of stress, high levels of support, minimal exposure to media images.
Obsessions consist of the repetition of distressing thoughts, impulses, ideas or images.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that are intended to quell the anxiety of the obsession.
- Having a history of eating disorders in first degree relatives
- Having another mental disorder (OCD is comorbid in over 50% of cases)
- Being biologically pre-disposed to the condition
- Having a reduced rate of serotonin (persons who suffer with OCD have difficulty entering REM sleep)
Theoretical risk factors
- Psychodynamics – the person is stuck in the anal stage of development seeking rigidity and over control
- Learning theory – the person plays out classical and operant conditioning and negative reinforcement
- Family Systems – OCD develops to serve as a function of the family.
- The development of better diagnostic categories to capture a better understanding of the disorder in adolescence
- Better education of family members in order to better recognize and monitor OCD inclinations.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
To be diagnosed with Major Depression the symptoms must not have been the result of substance use, a general medical disorder or bereavement in the previous two months.
Furthermore, the client must have exhibited four of the following symptoms for at least two solid weeks:
1) Depressed mood for most of the day (irritability in adolescents and males)
2) Loss of interest or pleasure in all activities
3) Gains or losses in weight or increased/decreased appetite
4) An interruption in sleep patterns (sleeping more or less)
6) Others view the person as speeding up or slowing down
7) Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
8) Inability to concentrate
9) Experiencing repeated thoughts about death
Risk factors for Depression
Gender – More females are diagnosed with depression than males
Age – Major Depression occurs in 1 in 6 adults over the age of 59
Health – Poorer general health increases risks, as well as a medical illness
Substance Abuse – increases risks (cannot be comorbid with Major Depression)
Genetics – There is some research that posits a genetic component to Major Depression
Comorbidity – Major Depression is often comorbid with anxiety, dysthymia or other disorders
History – Recurrence of depression is likely over the life-span
Abuse – Women who experience abuse are more likely to exhibit Major Depressive features
Economics – Lower socio-economic classes have higher rates of depression
Support – Isolation, divorce, widowed, separated and single individuals have greater risks
Stress – Major life events contribute to risks of major depression
Protective Factors for Depression
Social – Extended education, employment, financial stability, close relationships, marriage (for men), and adequate social support can protect against depressive symptoms
Medication – Can help resolve chemical imbalances in some individuals (must be weighed against side-effects and often work better in conjunction with psychotherapy)
Exercise – This is especially important for older adults, but has some protective factors for others as well.
Three forms of therapy have been researched and have proven effective for the treatment of Major Depression. Cognitive, Behavioral and Interpersonal therapeutic paradigms have provided the best outcomes for clients who suffer from Major Depression. Furthermore, a fourth paradigm that combines Cognitive and Behavioral treatments is effective. Finally, there is some research that states that therapy in conjunction with medication provides for the most effective and longest lasting results in the treatment of Major Depression.
Freud’s psychoanalytic tradition began with an attempt to "understand the forces of human irrationality through reason and science" (p. 426). Freud’s method of therapy included free association which allowed room for "clients" to tell whatever came to mind. This was precipitated by the notion that everything in the mind was connected and that whatever was mentioned would lead to the problems that hindered an individual. Instead of willing participants, Freud found that people opted to resist instead of comply with his requests. Resistance became one of the things Freud and his clients would look for in the stories they told, believing that revealing whatever repressed memory was resisted would help in the healing process.
For Freud, repression became known as a defense mechanism used to push uncomfortable thoughts out of our consciousness. Furthermore, these thoughts most often dealt with sexual drives and instinctual urges. Unconscious conflict became a source of study for Freud. He used three terms to describe the never-ending internal sources of power and conflict.
The Id became synonymous with the instinctual and primal portions of our personalities. It was governed by the pleasure principle which sought to relieve one’s biological urges with utmost haste. The id is reflexive rather than thoughtful. This idea also gives rise to the second of Freud’s concepts, The Ego. The ego is governed by the reality principle which seeks to alleviate the urges of the id through socially acceptable means. The ego serves the id, but works in some ways as an opposite of the id’s urges. Finally, Freud constructed the Superego as the watchdog of the ego. The superego’s function is to praise or punish the actions of an individual based on the constructed social reality that they have internalized.
The interplay of these three dynamics often results in unconscious conflict, leading a person to incorporate defense strategies and mechanisms. As the conflict plays out our anxiety rises, resulting in the need for strong defenses (repression is the primary defense) against the unsettled nature of the conflict.
Several other defense mechanisms were posited by Freud through his work. These included: displacement or the transferring of repressed urges from one situation to another, reaction formation or the transfer of feelings from one emotional pole to the other (ie – turning hate into a smothering love), rationalization or the attempt to re-interpret a situation into something more acceptable, projection or the attribution of one’s feelings to another person, and isolation or the separation of emotions from memories. For Freud, these many of the conflicts of adults can be traced back to developmental memories that have been repressed.
This is one of Freud’s best known and longest lasting contributions to the psychological realm. Every time someone says, “He’s so anal,” about a neat-freak they pay tribute to Freud.
Freud’s model of psychosexual development takes shape through five stages. If a child’s development is arrested in a particular stage, then that child will manifest certain behaviors in adulthood.
The first stage is the oral stage which is marked by a fixation with the mouth. This stage lasts from birth through about the first year and a half and arrested development here results in passivity or excessive eating or smoking.
The second stage is the anal stage which is concerned with the elimination of bladder and bowel functions; lasting from ages 18 months through about 3 years old, those whose development have stopped here often exhibit obsessions with neatness (anal-retentive) or are excessively reckless and disorganized (anal-expulsive).
The third stage is the phallic stage which focuses on the genitals and lasts from ages 3 to 6. It is in this stage the boys deal with the Oedipus Conflict or girls deal with the Electra Complex (that is, identification or love for the opposite parent (sexual love) and hatred of the same sex parent who dominates the attention).
The fourth stage, latency, lasts from 6 to puberty and everyone gets a break from fixations.
The final stage is the genital stage which begins in puberty and lasts through adulthood and our sexual interests are thought to mature. However, given Freud’s fixation with fixations it is a wonder that any of us ever really reach this stage where our libidinal energy can focus on the tasks at hand.
This has been a brief review of Freudian thought; feel free to add anything I might have missed…
For further review: The Freud Reader, Freud: A Very Short Introduction