What is Life Review? LMSW Exam Prep

By Emily Pellegrino on September 20, 2012

Letter blocks put together to say This week we are going to take a closer look at the term life review, and how it may potentially show up on the LMSW exam. The concept of life review was formulated by combining Erikson's theory of psychosocial development as well as Robert Butler's definition of reminiscence.  Life review is generally used with older adults, or with those who are terminally ill, and has many therapeutic benefits.

Let's get started with a sample LMSW question.

Sample Question:

Which of the following statements BEST defines life review?

A. The process of looking back over one's life in order to analyze themes and address unresolved conflicts.

B. A treatment procedure where a client discusses life events in a group setting.

C. The process of looking back over one's life in order to address failures and regrets.

D. A concept that describes a person's life-long pattern of behavior, predominant roles, and manner of interacting with others.

Life review serves many various functions including a way to promote self-understanding, preserve personal and collective history, allow for identification of themes in one's life, and address past conflicts that may be unresolved.  By going through this process with a therapist an individual is able to openly discuss events of their past with a more balanced perspective than one may have initially had.  These events can then be reorganized and resolved with the help of a therapist in order to promote self-acceptance.  While life review and reminiscence are interrelated in some ways, the LMSW exam would want you to recognize that while reminiscence is a look back over one's life, life review in particular focuses on understanding and addressing unresolved conflicts.

The Social Work Dictionary defines life review as, "The process of looking back over one's own life, and analyzing it, uncovering the hidden themes, and understanding the meaning of the life.  This occurs naturally among most older people, especially those approaching death.  Conflicts that were unresolved during earlier years are addressed and dealt with.  Reintegration occurs as conflicts are resolved.  For some people the life review process is effective and helpful when a therapist facilitates it through a systematic questioning and listening process" (Baker, 2003).


The best answer here would be A.  While B describes some aspects of life review, this would better define the process of reminiscence which focuses on looking back on one's life and is often done in a group setting.  C fails to describe the process of resolving conflicts, but rather focuses on an individual's regrets and self-determined failures.  D better describes the concept of a life script which may be a theme that comes up during a life review, but this definition focuses more on the concept rather than the process itself.

Coming up next week on the LMSW exam prep blog: Magical Thinking

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 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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