The Role of a School Social Worker: LCSW & MFT Exam Prep

By Bethany Vanderbilt on October 31, 2012

An empty classroom

One of the most important strategies you can use when you take your social work exam or MFT exam is to be aware of the ROLE that the therapist is in -- is the therapist providing therapy? Working in a hospital? Providing case management? This week's topic is School Social Work, which we can extend to MFT's, since they also provide school-based therapeutic services.

Let's look at one way this might come up on the social work exam:


A school therapist is asked to evaluate an 8 year-old student who has recently started having behavioral issues in the classroom. The teacher reports that the student is inattentive, irritable and has failed to turn in homework on a daily basis. In order to begin the evaluation, what should the therapist do FIRST?

A. Complete a classroom observation

B. Contact the parents for more information

C. Refer the student for comprehensive psychological testing

D. Explore the child's irritability and inattentive behavior

The school social worker or school therapist is in a very particular role, working on behalf of the school district, but also working on behalf of the students and families with whom they have contact.  This can create tension in the role and may in some cases limit the role: often the school therapist is not providing long-term treatment, but is instead making an initial evaluation and then connecting the family to referrals and more long-term resources if they are needed.


The best answer to the question above is B: contact the parents for more information. When a school therapist begins an evaluation, it's best to start EITHER with the child (if the family initiates contact with the therapist) or with the family (if the school initiates the contact), to find out what's going on at home and if the child is exhibiting symptoms there. A is not a bad answer, and would likely be part of the evaluation, but wouldn't be how the evaluation would begin. C is not the best answer because the therapist does not yet have enough information to warrant a comprehensive psychological evaluation. D may seem like a good answer because it speaks to the child's experience, but B is a better place to start because it involves the family and will provide important information about the child's symptoms and possible precipitating factors.

When you are studying for your social work exam or MFT exam, remember to take note of what role the therapist is in before moving on to answer choices -- you can often rule out at least one answer because it doesn't address the objectives of the therapist in that particular role.

Coming up next week: Medical/Hospital Social Work

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your social work or MFT exam? If you're preparing for a social work exam, check out our Social Work Study Materials. If you're preparing for an MFT exam, check out our MFT Study Materials. Learn more about our offerings at The Therapist Development Center.

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

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