Social Work Exam Study Guide: Practice Question

By Bethany Vanderbilt on December 11, 2013


For today's social work exam study guide we're bringing you a topic that's pretty relevant to all of us (at least in some point in our lives). The US Census estimates that in 2010, there were over 38 million people aged 65 and older living in the United States.  As Baby Boomers continue to age, this number and the proportion of the population it represents will certainly grow.  Despite these facts, many therapists out there (myself included) haven't been trained to and likely won't work directly with an elderly population.  This can make test questions about working with the elderly tricky. Here's one way this topic can show up in a test item.


social work exam study guide


A 67 year-old woman approaches a therapist in a community center and requests treatment to address feelings of depression that have developed over the past year.  Among other issues, she tells the therapist that shortly after retiring two years ago, her husband of 43 years passed away; she feels like "a third wheel" during social events, has stopped seeing many of her friends, and feels "useless"  without a job.  In order to help address these feelings, treatment objectives should include:

A. medical referral and referral to a support group for widows

B. life review and referral to a support group for widows

C. life review and medical referral

D. referral to a support group for widows and vocational counseling

So, what exactly is this "life review" thing?  It's a process in which a person is encouraged to reminisce about their past in an effort to improve psychological health and come to terms with their life.  A recent, relatively large randomly controlled trial showed that this intervention was quite effective in treating  moderate depression symptoms in an elderly population (you can read about it here:  It can include playing music that is meaningful to the client, looking at photographs or pictures, telling stories, and anything else that facilitates the sharing of memories and experiences.


The best answer to the question above is B.  We can rule A and D, since they don't include the aforementioned life review technique.  C is not the best answer because there isn't enough in the stem to indicate the need for a medical referral.  If the client had presented with physical symptoms, such as sleeplessness, loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches, etc., then a medical referral would be justified, but there's not enough here.  This doesn't mean that you wouldn't assess her for medical issues or ensure that she's seeing a healthcare provider appropriately, but the stem describes a psychosocial problem that needs a psychosocial answer.  The support group referral will also help connect the client to other people with similar experiences, address feelings of isolation and potentially provide her with coping skills.

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your social work exam or MFT exam? If you're preparing for the social work exam click here- Social Work Exam Study Guide if you're preparing for the MFT exam, click here MFT Exam Prep. Learn more about our exam prep at the The Therapist Development Center home page.

Are you looking for more study questions? Check out our social work exam study guide below:


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