ASWB Exam Prep: Ethics and Discipline

By Heidi Tobe on June 13, 2022

As I coach our LMSW and LCSW customers, the question of the ‘why’-the purpose of the test- sometimes comes up. Ultimately, the ASWB exists for the purpose of public safety. The ASWB exists to be a gatekeeper to the profession, ensuring licensed social workers are able to practice safely and ethically. So many questions on the exam fall under safety and ethics. (And so many of our challenging situations once we’re licensed come from ethical issues; more on our ethics CE offerings below!).

ASWB Exam Prep: Ethics


So what happens when a social worker acts in a manner that is unsafe or that goes against the code of ethics?

A good FIRST step if we have a concern about a colleague’s behavior is to speak to them directly. Even in a situation where we feel we’ll need to take further action (such as speaking to a supervisor, reporting to the state board, etc.) we want to start by talking to our colleague directly.


There are a few exceptions to this. The first is mandated reporting. Mandated reporting takes precedence over going to our colleague first. If we’ve had abuse or neglect of a minor, elder, or protected adult shared with us, we need to report immediately.

Another exception is if you are being personally harassed, targeted, etc. by a social worker. In this case, you wouldn’t be required/expected to address them directly. In this case, you could move directly to speaking with a supervisor (or, if at an agency, to HR).

And lastly, if the social worker engaging in a behavior of concern is your supervisor, there wouldn’t be an expectation to confront them. If a social worker felt comfortable doing so, they certainly could. But because of the power differential, it wouldn’t be required.

ASWB Ethics and Discipline Question

A social worker in a residential facility meets with an adult client with Down’s Syndrome. The client shares that when she met with her psychiatrist last week, he told her she looked pretty and touched her breasts. What should the social worker do FIRST?

A. Meet with the psychiatrist to determine what happened

B. Provide psychoeducation on appropriate vs. inappropriate touch

C. Make a mandated report to adult protective services

D. Report the psychiatrist to their medical board


(Scroll for answer and rationale)

Code of ethics






















The correct answer is C: make a mandated report to adult protective services. This falls under reportable abuse or neglect, and the exam wants to make certain that you know to take this as seriously as any other disclosure. You do not want to dismiss a client’s report due to having Down’s Syndrome or any other intellectual developmental disorder. A is incorrect because we don’t go to the suspected abuser when someone shares something reportable. B is incorrect because there is no reason a psychiatrist should touch a client’s breasts. D is something we may do, but it wouldn’t come before making the mandated report. 

ASWB masters (LMSW) and clinical (LCSW) exam preparation

How did you do on today’s question? There is so much nuance in this exam. One of the great things about TDC is that every one of our programs comes with access to a coach at no additional charge. You can email your coach anytime you have questions as you go through our program. We’ll always email you back with a personal response within 2 business days. (Though we’re often able to get back with you even sooner!). You’re never on your own with TDC and we are passionate about helping you pass with confidence! Did I mention that we’re with you until you pass? We never charge for extensions on our materials. 

Are you already licensed?

If so, I have some amazing news. The goal for TDC has always been to be more than just exam prep. We are passionate about quality training for licensed clinicians and have heavily expanded our CE library over the past year (with even more to come). One of my favorite courses is our ‘They did WHAT??: A Case Study Review of Disciplinary Actions.’ It talks through actual disciplinary cases in our profession. Know that when you sign up for TDC’s CE courses, it’s about more than checking off your required hours. Like our exam prep, they are engaging and relevant and will truly help make you a better therapist.


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