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!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Behind the Scene Annoyances

Here are some logistical, helpful steps to re-applying for the California Law & Ethics exam.  What follows is a behind-the-scenes view of me completing those steps, aka a list of annoyances.

  • I got an unexpected notification that I had another piece of mail in my PO Box
  • Wondered if there was any possibility that the mail was from the BBS saying that there was a mistake and I did not in fact fail by one question.  Computer error maybe? 
  • Went to pick up the mail
  • Cursed Chase Bank when I realized they trolled me with junk mail once again
  • (Seriously, are they reading this blog?  And laughing?)

  • I paid for all of my online courses
  • …the day before NASW-CA sent out an email with the extra special 20% off coupon code
  • Felt frustrated by that, too

  • Went on a walk to the post office to mail my completed packet to BBS
  • Passed CA smog test car shops that promise “Pass or free retest”
  • Thought about the 3 courses I paid for plus the $100 check in the BBS envelope
  • Sighed longingly

  • Waited in a long line at the post office
  • Realized I was standing near an awesome actor in line
  • Made conversation with him about everything we have in common
  • Let him borrow my pen, asked for baby’s first picture with a celebrity in exchange
  • Took a picture
  • Realized I may have been the annoying one in this situation.  Sorry, Danny Pudi.

Danny Pudi, my lego-faced baby, and me (excited, not annoyed, right here).

Here’s how this is relevant: I find I can re-focus on test prep better after taking a little break and releasing my annoyances via a mini vent session.  Maybe you’ve had a test fail or frustrating experience and need a similar mental health break before restarting fresh.  Thanks for listening!  Now back to studying.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Next Steps

If you failed your BBS California Law & Ethics exam, here is information about what to do next. 

First, you need to take additional courses before you can re-take the Law & Ethics exam.  Specifically, you need 12 hours worth of California law and ethics courses.

You can take courses in person or do it more quickly, and on your own time, online.  I chose to do mine through the NASW-California chapter online.  I selected four courses, which added up to the total 12 hours.

I even got to do one course for free!  Here is a course on the NASW Code of Ethics, worth 2 CEUs (continuing education hours), at no charge.

I paused for a minute, wondering if this course on the national code would count specifically toward the California requirement, but the course details specify that it is eligible to be used towards the 18 hours on law and ethics that California ASWs need to accrue, as well as the biannual 6 hours for California LCSWs renewing their license, so I think we’re OK.

Image Credit Pixabay

The letter informing me that I failed didn’t give a lot of instruction on where to find the application to re-apply for the exam—it just directed me to the general BBS website.  I had to click around for a while before I found it under Forms and Publications.  Let me save you some time -- here is the Request for Re-Examination.

You’ll need to fill out the application, write a check for $100, and include printed certificates of completion for the courses in the packet.  I also scanned a copy of the application to keep for my own records.

I sent my packet to the BBS with a tracking number and return receipt, so I can verify that they received it, and then I plan to monitor my checking account to see when they cash my check.

BBS recently updated their site with processing times – minimum of 30 business days for Request for Re-Examination.  There is also a mandated 90-day waiting period between exams.  That puts me at taking the exam no earlier than mid- or late-May.

When I get approval, I’ll sign up for a test spot online, go back to the PSI location, reflect on the benefits of taking this exam, and do it again! (…and pass!)