Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Affirmation: "I will pass the social work exam."

Write it down, put it on your mirror, say it to yourself over and over--because it's true! You will pass the social work exam.

Now go do it! Congratulations in advance!

Monday, December 18, 2017

How NOT to Pass the California Law & Ethics Exam

So before I dive into the post about how I studied differently to pass the California Law & Ethics exam (LCLE) the second time, let’s first touch upon why I think I failed the first time.

I studied while at home taking care of my second baby and kind of rushed to take the LCLE exam before I went back to my hospice job when he was two months old, but really, the reason why I failed the LCLE I took in February of 2016 is because it was harder than I expected. 

To study, I had reviewed the Law & Ethics online courses I took from the California NASW (the content as well as the mid-course and end-course quizzes), I read through the NASW Code of Ethics, and I took the Law & Ethics SWTP practice exam.  Everything I read through I sort of assessed with a “Yes, ok, sure, I understand” kind of attitude.

Looking back, I have a couple memories of taking my baby on a walk to a local boba tea shop and then almost casually leafing through my printouts of the CA NASW course material – and basically flipping through the Code of Ethics booklet while waiting in the car to pick up my older son – and knowing what I know now, it’s hysterical!  I want to shake myself and say “You fool!  This style of preparation is not adequate!”

Plus, when I would take the SWTP LCLE practice exam a second or third time (trying to go over content again, as well as practicing answering test questions in a timed exam experience), I would easily remember what the right answer was from when I reviewed my wrong answers the first time.  So I learned the right answer to that question, but I didn’t really learn the important concept or the nuance to the question.

On the day of the test, I learned that the LCLE questions were longer than expected – I didn’t manage my time well. I had finished the practice exam with plenty of time to spare, so I was overconfident about my time.

The questions were also harder than expected – just to give one example, let’s imagine there’s a question about a new teenage client of yours reporting an episode of sexual abuse from her previous therapist.  There are so many layers to a question like this! 

  •       You have to think about if this is a situation where you keep confidentiality or break confidentiality—would you have to report it, or would you encourage her to report it? 
  •       If you report, would it be to the police or to the state licensing board or somewhere else? 
  •       If sexual assault is a crime that takes away the victim’s own power and control, do you help give that sense of power and control back to your client and let her make the decision about reporting this or not? 
  •       How much impact does the client’s specific age make?  Does it make a difference that she’s a minor?
  •       How much does it matter that the alleged perpetrator is a therapist? 
  •       How much does it matter if the alleged perpetrator has continued access to minors? 
  •       Which factor is the most important piece that you have to think about here? 
  •       Does that California-specific brochure, aptly named “Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex,” get given out in this instance? 

(... Y’all, I was not prepared for these types of questions.)

Generally, quite a few of the answers seemed to have two right answers, and I had a hard time narrowing them down.  I marked some that I answered but was unsure of, and I also had a list of the unanswered ones that I had skipped.  At the end, I went through all of the marked/unanswered questions – I answered the unanswered ones – and I changed some of the marked but answered ones.

So yes, you can see, this was not a recipe for success.  BUT!  I was successful in the second go around of the LCLE, so come back to read more about that.

Monday, September 11, 2017

That Feeling When You Pass the Social Work Licensing Exam

One way to stay inspired as you're preparing for the social work exam is to soak up all the smiling joy of people who have gone before you and succeeded. Just an Instagramed pass sheet can give a lift. Still better, proud, happy people smiling as they hold up their pass sheets! SWTP posts these regularly on their blog and Facebook. Always great to see. Here's a sampling. Looking forward to seeing yours!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Demoralized… no MORE!

Remember me?  Took the California BBS Law & Ethics exam, failed by one point, then fell off the face of the Earth?


Right around the time I posted last, in May 2016, my family’s childcare situation changed dramatically.  SO I had a lot less help with my two little kids, and therefore significantly less time to study and think about retaking the exam.

I did receive the Board of Behavioral Sciences letter at my PO Box sometime in the summer, giving me permission to register again to retake the exam. By the way, I still received lots of Chase spam mail at the PO Box the entire time, continually tricking me into thinking it was mail from the BBS, so it seems like calling Chase to remove my PO Box address didn't even work.

When I got the letter giving me permission I suppose I felt good that it wasn't lost in the mail and that the process was continuing, but I didn't feel eager or ready to start studying to take it again. 

All you test-preppers out there, you know what this is like. I did not know when I would find the time! Whenever I had babysitters available, there was hospice work to be done, and no free time ever serendipitously emerged for me to study. 

I finally realized after my older son started and adjusted to preschool and we had settled into a routine that I would need to intentionally make some child-free time so I could study and get a move on. Otherwise the winter holidays would approach, the new year would be here, and my test eligibility would expire in February, a year after I failed the LCLE the first time.

My intentional studying took place at a new space I found nearby, which is a quiet co-working center with on-site childcare. I grit my teeth, bought a package, dug my heels in, and got it done. I gave myself a month between when we started at the center (spending about 3 hours there at a time, once or twice a week) and when I scheduled my exam.

I took the BBS Law & Ethics exam (LCLE) in mid November and I PASSED!  Yes it felt good!

Next post I’ll write will discuss how I studied differently to pass this time. Tune in!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Current Status: Demoralized

I understand about California BBS/licensing regulations/red tape/understaffing, and I wasn’t expecting the licensing process to be easy or quick, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting this process to be so demoralizing.

I received the mass BBS email last week with title “***BBS Exam Update – Please Read Carefully***” and body of email stating “The BBS has concluded analyses for the following exams: LCSW Law & Ethics (LCLE) – Passing score: 34.”

You might remember I got a score of 34 in February when I took it.  I failed by one point.  Now they’re stating that passing score is 34. 

I thought this miiiiiiight have meant that there was renewed analysis of all the LCLE exams since the BBS first started giving it in January of this year. 

After all, they didn’t specify anywhere in any of these announcements (via email, Twitter, and Facebook) that this analysis is for only a specific group of test takers. 

They also did not send an email like this when analysis was completed for the Jan-March group of test takers, so this type of announcement was unprecedented.

I reached out to BBS with my question – does this mean that someone who scored a 34 in February is now considered to have passed?  I emailed, commented on their Facebook announcement, and responded to their Twitter announcement.  They haven’t responded to my email at all, but the response via Facebook and Twitter was “No.”

I understand the process—they tweaked the exam for the April-May group of test takers, and after analysis, there is a different passing score for this exam version than the version I took in Feb.

But honestly, I think my hopes have been raised and then crushed enough in this process.  They could have just clarified “For candidates who took the exam in April and May” in the initial announcement to be as clear as possible.

I also received a notification about new mail in the PO Box the day after the BBS announcement, while I was still waiting their response about what it meant if I got a 34 earlier in the year. 

After hearing their “No,” I felt consoled that at least the BBS was sending me my authorization to register for the re-take of Law & Ethics.  I’ll get the permission, refresh my memory on the content, just take it, pass, and move on, I thought.  It has to be the BBS, It can’t be Chase AGAIN, I thought to myself, since the Chase rep promised me that now my PO address is removed from their solicitations. 

My husband checked the PO Box and texted me a picture of a Chase advertisement in my PO Box.  HA!  Hahahahahahha.

I feel like the BBS and Chase are working together to haze me into the exclusive LCSW club. 

In the meantime, I just continue to wait to receive permission to take Law & Ethics exam again.  Fun times in the licensing process! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Where Have I Been?

It’s been a month since I last posted!  Where have I been, huh?!

Kate McAk IG

Well, across the country, for one.  We took a trip out to Chicago to see family, and undergoing travel preparations for a family of four is a time-consuming feat, not to mention the days spent out of town and then the time playing catch-up after our return.  Good news is that both boys were great on the planes and we also had a wonderful time with family.

BY THE WAY shout-out to my aunt, who I saw at a family party, and inquired about why I hadn’t posted in a while!  That, coupled with the fact that I realized this morning that I had 3 comments on the blog itself from unknown readers, feels very motivational for me to keep up!  I have readers!

Reflecting on this past month, there have also been some seasonal activities that kept me busier than usual lately (I’m a Room Parent for my 2 year old’s preschool class, so there was heavy involvement in Teacher Appreciation Week earlier in May) but the main reason is two-fold:

Kate McAk IG

Hospice work.  I work per diem as a social worker with a hospice agency, and my caseload has been ramping back up since I returned from maternity leave in February.  I now have about twice as many patients on my caseload as I had earlier this year.  I’m definitely happy with this, since in the per diem world, more patients = more income, but I was somehow surprised at how much more time it took each week.

It’s as if I have units of the day for my professional life, and hospice has been using all of them, with little to no time left to study and blog.  And I can’t exactly borrow units from anywhere else.  From where would I take them? 

The time spent caring for my baby, my toddler, my husband?  Non-negotiable. 
Managing the house, cooking, cleaning?  Hmm, I already do the bare minimum with cleaning. 
The time spent on my own health and my sleep?  Sometimes this is compromised, but it shouldn’t be. 
Time for extended family and friends? That’s already neglected far too often.

I know I’m not the only one struggling to find a balance between all of these.  It seems like every other little family I know is similarly hustling.  I imagine it’s also a familiar tune for other social workers out there reading this – navigating spending your time doing the actual social work job that you have and also preparing for the LCSW exam.

Kate McAk IG

 The other reason is that I’m still in limbo with the Board of Behavioral Sciences.  I can see that they cashed my $100 check to process my application to re-take Law & Ethics exam, but although we are past the mandated 90-day waiting period, I have not yet received official word from them that I can schedule my exam. 

There’s even an option on PSI’s website to select “register for a RE-test” in connection with my 2/10/16 Law & Ethics exam, but I get an error message when I try, because clearly the permission has to first get to PSI from BBS.

A friend of mine who passed Law & Ethics in March is also waiting around for BBS to send permission to the ASWB for him to sit for the ASWB Clinical exam, so it seems there’s a backlog going on… and frankly that makes me lose motivation.

A couple weeks ago I got notification about new mail in my PO box, so I thought it may have been BBS sending me info on registering for my re-test.  Nope, it was Chase junk mail again.  HA!  I was able to talk to Chase Solicitations department and remove that PO box address from their mailing list, since I already had to call Chase about fraudulent charges/stolen identity on my credit card (oh yeah, that’s another thing I’ve been dealing with).

So that’s where I am—just acknowledging my current place in the LCSW process.  Putting it aside a little bit while I wait for BBS permission again.  To be continued!

Monday, April 11, 2016


You are working with an inpatient cancer patient who tells you he is interested in ceasing aggressive medical treatment and starting palliative care.  You’ve had experience with patients dying and also with those who choose to end treatment.  However, in your opinion, he is considering hospice earlier than most other patients usually do, when his chance of survivorship is quite high, and it “feels wrong” to you.

Think of similar situations where you feel conflicted, or outright may not agree, with a client’s desires or actions—a pregnant woman who is considering different plans of parenting, adoption, or abortion.  A domestic violence survivor going back to the abusive partner to give him/her another shot.  A graduate student who tells you about some dishonest paper writing or exam cheating.

Social workers encounter plenty of circumstances with clients that raise personal issues for themselves.  In those, it can be hard (but even more important) to stay professional and recall the ethical guidelines.

The NASW Code of Ethics says explicitly (emphasis my own): “Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals.” This is section 1.02, Self-Determination.

Sometimes it seems like a client’s own decision will result in a chance of harm coming to themselves or others, and we know that promoting a client’s wellbeing is another important part of the code of ethics (section 1.01).  

But when can you limit clients’ own decisions?  The following sentence in the self-determination section of the code states: “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.”  Those qualifiers need to be present in order for a social worker to step in.  Thus:

In real life counseling as well as on the ASWB exam (and California Law & Ethics exam), right/best answers in the self-determination category might look like 1) you helping clients explore the pros and cons of various paths, 2) assisting them in making a decision for themselves, and 3) generally respecting their own decisions – excepting issues involving mandated reporting, duty to warn, suicidal ideation with a plan & means to a plan, etc.  

Good luck studying!