MFT Practice Question: Conservatorship

By Robin Gluck on August 3, 2021

In this month’s MFT FREE practice question we will revisit a topic that has recently received attention in the national media: mental health conservatorships. If you keep up with pop culture, you’ve likely heard about, if not watched, Framing Britney Spears. A diverse group of people including musicians, tv personalities, and others have spoken out against her conservatorship. Most express outrage regarding the consequences of her father’s control over her finances and even health care. Her father became her conservator/guardian in 2008 when the court deemed her unfit to care for herself following high risk behaviors linked to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

While the Britney Spears’ case has garnered a lot of attention, she is not alone in this experience. The Department of Justice’s most recent estimates indicate 1.3 million Americans are under conservatorship (aka guardianship). The vast majority of conservatorships are among the elderly and do not receive much public attention. As a consequence, most people do not know or need to know the ins and outs of this legal process. As MFTs, however, we are more likely to work with individuals who are under a conservatorship and therefore need to know how it can affect them and our legal requirements.

If you are taking the National AMFTRB exam, it’s important to know that conservatorship laws are usually governed by state, not federal, law.

If you are in California and taking the MFT Clinical exam or the CA law and ethics exam, you will need to know the state laws, including issues such as:

  1. Who legally and ethically consents to treatment
  2. Who is legally the holder of privilege
  3. The rights of someone who is under a conservatorship
  4. The therapists legal and ethical responsibilities and rights

So let’s test your knowledge of this topic with this month’s practice question.


Practice Question: Conservatorship

A therapist meets with a 74-year-old man. The man is brought to his initial individual session by his son who provides documentation that he is the conservator of his father. When meeting individually with the man, he appears agitated and confused, and begins to complain that his son is too controlling and will not allow him access to his bank card or checkbook. How should the therapist manage their legal obligations?

A.Report elder abuse due to reasonable suspicion of financial abuse perpetrated by the son.

B.Ask the man if he would like to engage in family therapy to express his concerns with his son.

C.Document the man’s complaints in the medical record and continue to assess for potential financial abuse.

D.Acknowledge the man’s concerns and explore his understanding of being a conservatee.

(scroll down for answer and rationale....)




















The correct answer in this case is D.

The son provided documentation to the therapist that indicates he is the conservator for his father. As a consequence, this means he has control over the father’s finances. His withholding of the bank card and checkbook would not constitute financial abuse. This allows you to eliminate answers A and C. 


Answer B might be an acceptable action. However, we would start by acknowledging the man’s expressed concerns and clarifying his understanding of the legal implications of having a conservator.


How did you do?

How did you do on this month’s practice question? Are you ready to tackle conservatorship questions on your exam? Regardless of your answer to this question, TDC’s MFT California Clinical Exam prep and AMFTRB program covers all you need to know and provides you with practice questions to help you prepare. TDC’s MFT California Clinical and AMFTRB exam prep programs give you everything you need to be successful on the exam. And we do not overwhelm you with content you don’t need. We’ve helped THOUSANDS of MFTs PASS their exams with confidence over the past decade. Our team looks forward to helping you PASS with confidence!






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