ASWB Exam Prep: Consultation

By Heidi Tobe on December 7, 2020


On the ASWB exams (both LMSW and LCSW), there are many reasoning based scenario questions that offer the answer option ‘consult with colleagues.’ I’ve had a number of social workers email me coaching questions about this, sharing their difficulty in identifying when this is the right answer and when it’s not. Sometimes consultation will be the correct answer and other times it will not, which can make this answer option feel challenging. The good news is, there are some clear guidelines to follow for these questions. Today’s blog covers some of the scenarios when you want to choose this answer, as well as some scenarios when you do not.

consultation with colleagues

When not to seek consultation with colleagues

You won’t seek consultation with colleagues on the exam unless there is a clear reason to do so. I like to think about this from a practical perspective. In our clinical work, we don’t consult with colleagues on every client situation, right? So we also aren’t going to do this for exam scenarios. Don’t choose this answer option unless there is a clear reason to do so identified in the stem (we’ll go into some of these reasons below).

For purposes of the exam, I would also say that you don’t want to choose consultation with colleagues when there is an answer option to consult with a supervisor. Prioritize consultation with a supervisor over colleagues, unless it clearly specifies you’re in a setting where you wouldn’t have a supervisor. Specifically around issues of countertransference and values conflicts, the exam is looking for the social worker to consult with a supervisor. So if you see an answer option to ‘consult with a supervisor’ and another answer option to ‘consult with colleagues’ go with 'consult with a supervisor' unless there is a really clear reason to consult with the colleague. Next month’s blog (the first of 2021) is going to be on when to seek supervision-so be on the lookout for some info on this important topic!

When to seek consultation with colleagues

It is a good option to seek consultation with colleagues when consultation is needed and supervision is not an answer option. In real life, we seek consultation when we need support, not for every client situation. So, if a question stem specifies that ‘the social worker is unsure of how to proceed’ consultation is a great answer option. Or, if we are lacking knowledge in a particular area and there is an option to consult with a colleague knowledgeable in this area that is a good answer option to go with.

ASWB Practice Question

A social worker has been meeting with a client for two years. Recently the client shared that they have been experiencing harassment at work and despite speaking with their manager, it isn’t getting better. After the session, the social worker realizes she is unsure of how to help the client around this issue. What should the social worker do FIRST?

A. Refer the client to a social worker who specializes in workplace issues

B. Consult with a colleague

C. Encourage the client to express their concerns to HR

D. Encourage the client to seek employment in a safer environment

(Scroll for answer and rationale)




















The correct answer is (B), to consult with colleagues. This might have been a little too straightforward since this week’s blog is titled ‘consultation.’ (A) is incorrect because there is no need to refer a client of two years to another therapist for a situation like this. (C) would actually be a great next step if the question didn’t specify ‘the social worker realizes she is unsure of how to help the client around this issue.’ Because it specifies this, it suggests she is unsure if (C) is an okay thing to do. If it didn't say this, (C) would have been a great answer option to go with. It is likely that consulting with colleagues (B) may lead the social worker to doing (C). (D) is premature, because the client hasn’t stated that she wants to leave her job.

ASWB Masters and Clinical Exam Preparation 

How did you do with today’s question? Did answer option C throw you off, or were you confident in seeking consultation before the next session? Whether you got this one right or wrong, know that our LMSW and LCSW exam prep programs will give you everything you need to walk into the exam confident to answer questions around consultation and supervision. THOUSANDS of social workers have PASSED their ASWB exams with confidence using TDC. Are you ready to earn your licensure? If you haven’t already, sign up for TDC today!


Commenter Name
December 9, 2020

Yes, C was my go to.

Commenter Name
December 11, 2020

I also thought b the correct answer since the social worker states she is unsure what to do in the stem so that is why I would go to c. Like Heidi states she wasn’t u sure then go with c. This was one of the questions I asked before so now I understand it . Appreciate your going over it again!

Commenter Name
December 11, 2020

I would go with B since social worker is unsure. If she was not questioning it then C. Thank you for going over this question. I believe it was something I brought up before.

Commenter Name
December 11, 2020

I did not answer it correctly but after reading it made sense, why the correct answer was B. I chose C and not B.

Commenter Name
December 29, 2020

So if it didn’t state that the social worker is unsure, would we pick C?

Commenter Name
December 30, 2020

Yes, that is correct!

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