Are You Studying for the LCSW or MFT Exam? Let's Explore Grief & Bereavement

By Bethany Vanderbilt on April 4, 2012

man sitting under a tree.Hey all, this week we are looking at grief and Bereavement.  This topic comes up on the exam in a few ways: differential diagnosis (usually between Bereavement, Adjustment Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder); stages of grief; and the expression of grief throughout the life cycle. Here's a sample question to get us going:


A 53 year-old man seeks help from a social worker in private practice.  During the assessment, the man reports that his wife of 25 years died a month ago in a car accident.  The man tells the social worker that he has been having difficulty sleeping and does not feel like spending time with his grown children or friends.  He says, "the most troubling thing is that I keep going to her grave and talking to her like she's still here...I feel like I'm nuts."  What should the social worker do FIRST:

A.  refer the client for a psychiatric evaluation

B.  provide the client with information about a grief support group

C.  normalize the client's experience as a typical expression of grief

D.  contact the client's children to elicit additional support

Grief is a normal response when a loved one dies; this can include family members, spouses, friends, and even pets.  As therapists, we should be able to identify typical signs and symptoms of grief reactions and assess whether or not the person is experiencing a clinical disturbance as a result.  The signs of grief often look like other symptoms of mental illness, including, but not limited to: deep feelings of sadness or anxiety, tearfulness, decreased sleeping and/or eating, isolative behavior, irritability and difficulty focusing on work/tasks.  One way therapists can help is by reassuring clients that grief is not inherently pathological and that their responses and behaviors can actually facilitate healing.


C is the correct answer to the question above; the client is describing a very typical expression of grief, including going to the grave site to "talk" with his wife; A would not be necessary at this time; B may be helpful, but not before the therapist acknowledges and normalizes the client's feelings; D is incorrect as it would violate confidentiality and may not be helpful.

Coming up next week: Health-related Disorders

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your social work or MFT exam? If you're preparing for a social work exam, check out our Social Work Study Materials. If you're preparing for an MFT exam, check out our MFT Study Materials. Learn more about our offerings at The Therapist Development Center.

Looking for more practice questions and some study tips? Check out our new Social Work Exam Study Guide:

Download the Free Social Work Exam Study Guide

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