Why is Self-Determination Important for Clients? LMSW Exam Prep

By Emily Pellegrino on October 22, 2019


This week's topic is what I believe to be one of the most important aspects of social work, and a term that is really good to know for the LMSW exam. When answering questions on the LMSW exam we always want to approach questions while keeping a client's sense of self-determination in mind.  Self-determination encompasses so much of our work and ensures that the client is making decisions based on their own needs and wants.  Before I get any further, let's get started with sample questions to help you prepare for the LMSW exam.

Sample Question:

All of the following are aspects of self-determination, EXCEPT:

A. The right for individuals to have full power over their own lives, regardless of the presence of an illness or disability.

B. The client's right to direct their own services and make decisions regarding their health and well-being with the help of others of their choice.

C. The social worker's responsibility to assist client's in being informed regarding the impact of resources and choices.

D. Encouraging a client to make a choice based solely on the social worker's opinion.

What is self-determination?

So what do we want to know about self-determination for the LMSW exam? Self-determination refers to the right of a client to make their own decisions and choices. In the end it isn't our responsibility as a social worker, or ethical really, to put our own opinion on a client. It is our responsibility, however, to help a client make an informed decision regarding their own life and to help them understand the impact of that decision. This is really important to keep in mind when answering questions. We want to always ensure we are empowering client's to make decisions based on what is best for them.

This can be tricky when client's aren't sure how to make their own decisions, but that's where the importance of our work can really come in. We can support client's in developing this skill and as a result make informed decisions that support their own goals and life. When approaching the LMSW exam questions we want to ask ourself, "which answer option will support the client's sense of self-determination?" This helps us pick an answer that is not only addressing the presenting problem, but empowering the client as well.

According to The Social Work Dictionary, self-determination can be defined as, "An ethical principle in social work that recognizes the rights and needs of clients to be free to make their own choices and decisions. Inherent in the principle is the requirement for the social worker to help the client know what the resources and choices are and what the consequences of selecting any one of them will be. Usually self-determination also includes helping the client implement the decision made" (Barker, 2003).

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When looking at the LMSW exam practice question, we always want to make note of what is the question asking. In this case the question wants to know which of the answers are NOT aspects of self-determination. With that in mind, the best answer here is D. All of the other answers include aspects of self-determination, where as D focuses solely on the social worker's opinion which is unethical, and not appropriate. While the social worker plays a role in self-determination, it is their responsibility to help the client be informed enough to make their own decisions.

Coming up next week: Triangulation

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your LMSW exam? If you're preparing for the social work exam, check out our LMSW Study Materials. Learn more about our exam prep at The Therapist Development Center home page.

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

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Commenter Name
May 24, 2021

I like the explanation very helpful please continue to post questions

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