What to Know About Releases and Referrals for the LCSW & MFT Exam

By Bethany Vanderbilt on October 3, 2012

Woman releasing doves Well, we're into some topics that don't, at first glance, seem all that exciting.  BUT, practicing independently is exciting!  And you have to know how to keep yourself safe in the process.  Lots of people out there preparing for their LCSW exam or MFT exam view it as simply a 1-time event that they have to "get past" in order to move on with things.  This is a surefire way to raise your anxiety.  If, however, you view the exam prep process as a way of consolidating your knowledge and making sure that you're ready to be liable for your professional actions and decisions, it might actually feel good, like you're investing in your professional development.


A therapist receives a referral for a 6 year-old girl and her foster parents.  In the course of the assessment, the foster parents indicate that the child was in play therapy for a year prior to the referral.  The therapist would like to speak with the former provider; what should the therapist do NEXT?

A. Have the foster parents sign a release to contact the play therapist

B. Ask the foster parents to provide verbal consent and call the play therapist

C. Contact the client's foster care social worker to determine legal guardianship

D. Petition the Court for access to the play therapist's records

Understanding the ins and outs of releases -- who can sign them, what they typically cover, etc., is one way you can protect yourself and your clients when you're practicing under your own license.  Children in foster care present a very particular situation -- they're children, so an adult has to sign all releases, and in most cases the court or child welfare agency typically assumes legal guardianship.  It's important to understand your individual state's laws around this, but in general, the child welfare agency or court must consent for treatment and sign all releases for children who are in foster care.


The correct answer to the question above is C: contact the client's foster care social worker to determine legal guardianship.  This is the best first step in making sure that the consent is signed by the appropriate person.  A is not the best answer because in many cases foster parents cannot sign releases of information; likewise, B is not the best answer because a verbal consent to release information is almost never a best first step -- it should only be used in emergency situations.  D is not the best answer because it is WAY more than what is called for, and may not even be possible. Studying for the LCSW exam or MFT exam isn't just about passing a test -- it's about preparing to be an independent practitioner.

Coming up next week: Insurance

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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