Understanding Boundaries for the LMSW Exam

By Emily Pellegrino on July 12, 2012

Fence postWe are onto week two of the Social Work Exam Prep: The ABC’s Blog! This week we’ll be looking at boundaries and the impact they have on our work. Boundaries are an important part of social work because they are there to not only protect the client, but to protect you as the social worker as well. Here’s a sample question to start us off.

Sample Question:

All of the following statements are characteristics of boundaries within the client-therapist relationship EXCEPT:

A. Developing a framework that allows for a safe connection based upon the needs of the client

B. Maintaining the social work values and ethics

C. Allowing for a safe connection based upon what the client wants

D. Understanding and recognizing the power imbalance that exists within the relationship

Boundaries in the social work profession have a lot of different meanings and can include the boundaries that are within families, boundaries with clients, and even those that we set between our personal and professional lives. Within the client-therapist relationship, professional boundaries can include fee for services, personal disclosure, limits regarding the use of touch, and avoiding dual relationships.  Boundaries therefore allow for a safe connection to be created between you and the client, while keeping the client's best interest in mind.


The best answer to the above question is C.  While client's may at times push the boundaries based on what they want, it is important to keep in mind what the client actually needs and what will be most beneficial for them and their treatment goals.  While we touched upon this briefly already, A is not the correct answer because the needs of the client are identified in this statement which is necessary to create a safe and effective treatment environment.  B is not correct because the social work code of ethics state that these values must be upheld in order to avoid conflicts of interest, exploitation, and inappropriate boundaries. Lastly, D is not correct because it is important to understand the power imbalance that inherently exists within the therapeutic relationship.  The client is coming to you for your knowledge and expertise (and often help!), which puts their trust in you to create a safe and appropriate environment.

Coming up next week: Countertransference

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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