Monday, October 26, 2015

Free Social Work Exam Help

One of the enduring truths about the social work licensing exam is that it costs too much. It's expensive to register for the exam; preparation time is expensive (in a time equals money sense); exam materials can cost an outrageous amount. And while we're at it, why not lump in the cost of an MSW? It all adds up to more than most social workers can easily afford. That's something this blog aims to alleviate,in part. Reading through these pages costs you nothing (except time). Elsewhere on the web, there are resources aplenty that can help you gather the all the content you need to know for the exam. If you're especially resourceful, you may be able to piece together exam practice enough to help you get a sense of the exam process. Got exam content and process under your belt? You're ready to go.

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. - 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

DSM-5 Arrives

It's been quiet here, but you may still have heard the rumbling of an approaching giant: DSM-5. The new, purple edition of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has been in circulation for a couple of years, but until now, you may have been able to avoid it. If you're preparing for the LCSW exam (or any other social work licensing exam), avoiding it is--as of July 1st, 2015--no longer an option. But don't fear. While the DSM-5 may have big impact on some clients by, for example, widening autism or narrowing bipolar disorder, for your exam prepping purposes, the switch isn't a huge deal. The little changes are minor enough to probably escape the interest of ASWB exam item writers. The big changes are in small enough number to be manageable. While this blog may examine some of the more likely-to-show-up-on-the-exam changes in future posts, to take a big gulp of DSM-5 change info, try the links below. Happy reading, happy studying.

For review: DSM-5 changes (APA); DSM-5 changes (Psych Central); DSM-5 (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Theories and Methods - Mahler

Margaret Mahler was a Hungarian-born psychoanalyst who worked with disturbed youth and developed the separation-individuation theory of child development. In Mahler's theory, young children pass through a series of stages, each of which has an associated task or action (similar to Erikson's stages that way):
  • 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)
Mahler proposes that, if the process of separation-individuation goes awry, a reliable sense of individual identity in the adult is compromised.

Will Margaret Mahler show up on the social work exam? Don't count on it.'s not unheard of. Good luck.

For further review: Margaret Mahler at Wikipedia; chart of stages via

Friday, February 06, 2015

Theories to Know for the Social Work Exam

Every time an ambitious PhD gets hold of a grant, it seems like a new approach to psychotherapy is born. Which is great, but can be overwhelming. Just look at Wikipedia's list of psychotherapies for a sense of how vast the literature on psychotherapy is. If you're preparing for the social work exam, not to worry. What you might reasonably expect to see appear on the exam doesn't include that whole list. Far from it. The Code of Ethics directs social workers to utilize empirically validated forms of psychotherapy. Social work schools like students to be grounded in the history of psychotherapy. In those two categories, you should be able to locate everything that might possibly show up on the exam, theory-wise. If it's not empirically validated or historically relevant, it might be interesting to learn about, but that's learning that won't necessarily help you on exam day. Here's a quick list of therapy's greatest hits--with links to Wikipedia, pruned from the longer list. A cheat sheet for your exam prep:
Remember not to overstudy. You don't need to know all of these inside and out for the social work exam. You just need a general idea of what's what with each (if that!)--some key concepts and no more. Anything missing? Comments are open.