Clinical Supervision on the ASWB Licensing Exams

By Heidi Tobe on October 9, 2019

Wooden man walking up stairs

This may come as a surprise to some LMSW and LCSW test-takers, but you are likely to see some questions on the ASWB exam asking what action a supervisor should take with their supervisee. The ASWB puts clinical supervision questions on their exams for two reasons.:

1. To assess whether social workers understand the purpose of and activities done in supervision; and

2. Once you pass this exam, supervising other social workers may be in your future!

The NASW and ASWB collaborated to create a document on the Best Practice Standards in Social Work Supervision. While this goes into far greater depth than what you will be tested on for your ASWB social work exams, we definitely recommend checking out this document for your own knowledge and development. Here is some information and highlights from this document that we think are helpful to know both professionally and for your ASWB exams.

What is professional social work supervision?

The supervisory relationship is defined as one where the supervisor and supervisee work collaboratively to develop competency, demeanor, and ethical practices. The supervisor offers direction to the supervisee as they take their knowledge of social work theory, skills and competencies, and understanding of ethics in social work and apply it to their individual practice setting. Throughout this process, the supervisor offers direction and the supervisee can adjust and refine client services in order to fully optimize the benefit of these services to the client. Supervision is in great part about ensuring the supervisee is offering clinically competent, ethical, and appropriate services to their clients. 

Who is responsible for supervision: the supervisor or supervisee?

The answer is both. Similar to our clinical work where both social worker and client bear responsibility, in supervision it is both the supervisor and supervisee who are responsible for carrying out their individual roles in the supervisory relationship. 

What types of activities are included in supervision?

Three primary types of activities are included in supervision according to the NASW and ASWB's document: administrative, educational, and supportive.

  1. Administrative activities help the supervisee understand agency policies, the demands of the job, and how to successfully function within their specific role.
  2. Educational activities refer to helping the supervisee increase their self-awareness, refine knowledge and skills, and develop professionally as it pertains to their specific role. These activities help the supervisee learn appropriate techniques around assessment, intervention, and treatment. It also assists them in dealing with ethical issues that arise.
  3. Supportive activities include activities to help the supervisee manage work-related stress that could interfere with their ability to successfully perform their job. This includes helping the social worker manage emotionally challenging environments and vicarious trauma, all while working on developing their emerging professional identity as a social worker.

Hopefully, this blog gave you a little taste of some of the great information included in the Best Practice Standards in Social Work Supervision document. We always like to wrap things up with an applicable practice question. Here’s a sample social work practice exam question on how supervision could show up on the ASWB exam:

ASWB Practice Question:

 A social work supervisor meets with one of her supervisees for supervision. During this meeting, the supervisee shares they have become sexually involved with a client. They share they want to refer the client to another social worker in order to pursue a relationship with them. What is the FIRST action the supervisor should take?

A. Immediately report the social worker to the board

B. Assist the supervisee in transferring the client to a different social worker

C. Discuss the ethical violations that are occurring with the supervisee

D. Terminate her supervisory relationship with the social worker






















The correct answer is C, to discuss the ethical violations that are occurring with the supervisee. While A, B, and D are all possible actions that the supervisor could take at some point, we should always start by speaking with the social worker first. The social worker is engaging in unethical behavior, so the supervisor needs to address the ethical violations the social worker is engaging in. The supervisor may report the supervisee to their board (A), but it wouldn’t occur before talking directly to the supervisee. The supervisee should absolutely end their relationship with the client. Even once that occurs, the client should be transferred to a different social worker (B). But again, this wouldn’t happen until first speaking with the supervisee about the ethical violations. If the supervisee isn't willing to engage in ethical practice, they may decide they're unable to continue providing supervision (D). This still wouldn't occur until after first speaking with the supervisee.

ASWB Masters and Clinical Exam Preparation

Do you feel ready for the supervision questions that may show up on your ASWB Masters and ASWB Clinical Exam? We hope so! If you’re studying for your ASWB exams (LMSW, LCSW, or Law and Ethics) and aren’t already signed up for one of our programs, we encourage you to check out our social work exam prep programs today. Check out our LMSW licensing exam prep courses. We’ve helped thousands of social workers pass their exams and would love to help you pass yours, too! Every person signed up for a TDC program has access to a coach they can email anytime with questions. So once you sign up, you’ll never be alone in this process. And we're with you until you pass! So you never have to pay for extensions or to go back through the program again.


NASW and ASWB (2013): Best Practices in Social Work Supervision.


Commenter Name
May 30, 2020

Need study materials - LMSW Licensure exam.

Commenter Name
June 1, 2020

Please help me I just graduate with my MSW and really want to pass this exam Thank You!

Commenter Name
March 3, 2021

If the social work supervisee ended the relationship with the client and transferred to another social worker so if the supervisee did everything then would the supervisor not have to report to the board and also not terminate the relationship they have.

Commenter Name
March 5, 2021

A report to the state board could still happen as the social worker engaged in a sexual relationship, which should never happen. And since supervisee's are operating under the supervisor's clinical license, this is an egregious enough error that most would terminate the supervisory relationship as well.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain Filter