ASWB Practice Question: Supervision vs. Personal Psychotherapy

By Heidi Tobe on April 11, 2024

Last month’s ASWB social work blog for the LMSW and LCSW exams covered the topics of countertransference and supervision. We answered the questions: What is countertransference? When should social workers seek supervision?  When do we not need to seek supervision? Today we continue our discussion on this highly tested topic and answer the questions: Why supervision and not colleague consultation? When should social workers seek personal psychotherapy? We finish off this month's social work blog with a practice question.

ASWB Practice Question: Supervision vs. Personal Psychotherapy

Why supervision and not colleague consultation?

For exam purposes, the expectation is to seek supervision (not colleague consultation) for countertransference issues. Supervisors (should) have received training on how to lend support in these situations, and colleagues may or may not have the experience or training to offer the needed support. So for the test, seeking supervision is a better answer to go with.

Colleague consultation is great for other things, though. For example, if a colleague specializes in a particular population or treatment modality, they can be a great resource. Colleagues can also be extremely helpful for general case consultation or conceptualization.

When should social workers seek personal psychotherapy? 

Another answer option you may see on the exam is for the social worker to seek personal psychotherapy. Sometimes this is the correct answer, while other times it’s not. In most cases, if a countertransference issue occurs and the question asks what to do FIRST/NEXT, a good first step is to seek supervision. But on the exam, we can only choose that answer option if it’s available. When it's an available answer option, this would come before seeking personal psychotherapy. This is because in the supervision session, the option of seeking personal psychotherapy can be discussed. However, if our only answer options are to seek consultation or to seek personal psychotherapy, I would err on the side of personal psychotherapy if it is a situation where this may be beneficial. Again, this is because colleagues may not have the experience or training to navigate this discussion like a supervisor should.

Let’s take a look at the practice question below to see an example of this:

ASWB Practice Question

A social worker has been working with a client for several months when the client unexpectedly loses their spouse in a car accident. The social worker’s own spouse died in a car crash several years ago. The social worker observes that since the death of her client’s spouse, she has experienced a significantly lower mood, has been having flashbacks of the accident, and has struggled with falling and staying asleep. The social worker should:

A. Seek consultation.

B. Seek personal psychotherapy.

C. Refer the client to another therapist.

(Scroll for answer and rationale).










The correct answer is B: Seek personal psychotherapy. If A said to seek supervision, we could choose that answer as the place to start. But a colleague we consult with may not have the expertise, training, or experience to help the social worker with this situation. C may or may not occur at some point (this would also be a good topic for discussion in supervision), but would not happen before first doing B. 

ASWB Exam Prep:

Are you ready for questions on seeking personal psychotherapy vs. supervision vs. consultation?  TDC coaches are here to help you with all of these nuanced topics and more. All of our exam prep programs come with FREE access to coaches who you can email anytime you have questions as you go through the program. We’ve  helped over a hundred thousand mental health professionals become licensed-are you next?


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