Social Work by the Numbers

Robert Indiana (American, b. 1928), Numbers, 1980-1983, painted aluminum, 8x8x4 ft. (each), Gift of Melvin Simon and Associates, 1988.246. (c) 2013 Morgan Art Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

While leading a Social Work Practice class, I asked the students to name the 3 levels of analysis used to organize systems. I thought I was providing a great clue by stating the word “systems” and dropping the number 3. After students sat with puzzled looks for 20 seconds, I realized that my perceived hints were not well received. It got me thinking about numerology in the social work profession.

Even before we get to dates that every social worker should have memorized (*idea for next article), social workers should have some pretty common constructs and theoretical frames on deck listed by their numbers.This is fun. I challenged myself to count from 1 to 10 identifying theories, constructs, or other social work content that fit the number. I was able to account for each number except 7.

The big numbers of the list are interestingly 3, 6, and 9. When someone says these numbers, social workers automatically consider specific content. For my students, if I give these number of spaces for an answer on a test, they should immediately think of content they have learned.

1 Personal-Professional Value Integration

The most important element of self-care is a consonant cognitive state. Who you are as a person is the same as who you are as a professional. What many are attempting to explain in separating you from the job is that you must physically take time away from the job. Just like a long distance runner cannot train nonstop, you need time to recover.

Yet, your value system is most sustainably one personally and professionally. It is dissociative to hold a different value personally than what your professional value prescribes. Seek to correlate the two. If they cannot be correlated, a social worker is trained to change the system.

2 The Smallest System

General Systems Theory is a core knowledge node in the social work profession. The worker and the client form the smallest possible system of interaction in the profession. Because it is so small, the energy in this smallest system can be intense. Worker skill in managing this energy can often make the difference in coping and adaptation.

3 Basic Ecological Systems Levels

Ecological systems perspective describes 3 basic levels: micro, meso, and macro. Beyond a simple categorization of systems components, this model provides a way to organize assessment and intervention–a perspective on the system interactions. The other constructs in ecological systems perspective are chrono and exo systems.

4  ASWB Examination Content Outline

Four of the 5 examinations available from ASWB have 4 sections of content. Advanced Generalist is the exception. It has 5 sections. This is important because knowing how the content of the test is organized may help you prepare. By the way, 5 is the number of ASWB exam administration categories —Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Advanced Generalist, and Clinical.

5 NASW Best Practice Standards in Social Work Supervision

6 Ethical Parameters in the NASW Code of Ethics

Every student should commit these ethics to memory. They should also be ready at a moment’s notice to explain their meaning and application. They are service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. The most difficult to explain for many students is social justice. The most limited in understanding is integrity. By the way, the code is also organized into 6 sections. These 6 do not correspond with the 6 parameters.

8 Basic Social Worker Roles

Eight social worker roles exist. My list includes:

  • In the Broker role, social workers link clients with market resources.
  • In the Case Manager role, social workers assist clients to cope with crises.
  • In the Initiator role, social workers call attention to a need.
  • In the Advocate role, social workers represent the client against a more powerful entity.
  • In the Organizer role, social workers organize an activity or group.
  • In the Facilitator role, social workers lead a group process.
  • In the Educator role, social workers teach content to a client or group.
  • In the Administrator role, social workers manage toward a defined set of goals.

9 Competencies

The 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) is the  document outlining educational standards for the social work profession. Every social work program in the country is required to demonstrate student competence in 9 areas. Follow the link for a list.

10 NASW Standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice


11 NASW Standards for the practice of clinical social work

12 Standards for Social Work Practice with Clients with Substance Use Disorders

13 As with other conventions in the US, I did not find a single use of the number 13. It’s typically considered to be unlucky.

14 Standards for Social Work Practice in Child Welfare

20 NASW Standards for practice in health care settings.

Do You Need Help Passing the Social Work Licensing Exam


Passing the social work licensing exams is no easy task. There are stories abound of social workers taking their respective exams 2,3,4 and more times before passing. While some knock it out first time through, for those who don’t, it doesn’t take long before we realize its time to call in some help. This article is designed to assist you with sorting through the many programs out here to figure out which one will be the best one for you.

The leaders of numerous social work exam prep programs were interviewed to find out more about their specific programs.  Those who agreed to participate in the article were all asked the same questions. Those who declined are not included here because of their decision to opt out. However, each of the participants shared some specifics about the content and process of their programs.

Creative Licensure Prep/Susan Mankita

Based in Miami, Florida, Susan works primarily with re-takers. She offers individual and group work face-to-face and remotely via Skype.  She assesses every client to identify the sources of struggle and then focuses on the unique needs of each client. After completing a test, they read and discuss each question by question. She trains clients to dissect and understand each type of ASWB question until they know how to identify right answers.

She has worked with over 200 re-takers: some have failed many time before finding her. She states that 100% of the clients who completes the training pass. However, she states several have “dropped out” after deciding that the stressors of the exam weren’t worth the value of the license to them. Initial assessment/training takes 6 –8 hours. Many continue with weekly or bimonthly sessions, and sessions bill at $70/hour. However, she does have a sliding scale based on need. Susan has been in the test prep business for the last 8-9 years, and her reputation as a licensure exam trainer is growing.

Social Work Guide/Serena Lau

Social Work Guide is a program built from pride and experience. They began over 15 years ago helping social workers, and today their exam study guides can be found in numerous schools of social work as a part of their curriculum. They are based out of Wilmington, NC and are deeply tied to the social work community throughout the Southeast.

While they have no published pass rates, they do have a variety of exam prep books including ones dedicated to social workers who have failed their exams to comprehensive guides for all. They also offer online practice exams written by the experienced staff and include instant score with analysis plus additional phone consultations at no added cost. Social workers can expect to pay anywhere from $69.95 for practice exams to $129.95 for the guides or elect a bundle of services for $249.00.

The One/Jason Adkins

The One is a program that developed in 2012 after its creator had failed the clinical exam in 2011 then made changes and improved his score by 18 points. It’s based out of Atlanta, GA and offers a variety of methods to deliver exam prep including one-on-one tutoring and workshops across the country. A study guide and audio tools are also in the works. The one-on-one tutoring boasts a 100% pass rate for those who complete the 90 day program. Program delivery is face to face or via webcam and uses tools online, podcasts , and videos.

The One is the only program that works with the social worker exclusively one-on-one and has the unique component of offering those who complete the program, a job as a tutor with The One. They also put immense emphasis on creating flashcards that help the social worker learn through sensory learning. The One also gives each client a learning styles assessment to pair them with a tutor who’s teaching style matches their learning style. One-on-one sessions are $250 for 5 hours and the workshops are $275.

Therapist Development Center/Amanda Rowan

Amanda Rowan has one of the most unique test prep programs available today. Her clients get access to audio recordings done by some of the brightest social workers around who guides the listener on how to think during the exam instead of only focusing on what to know. They also offer handouts, quizzes, and practice exams.

Based in Santa Barbara, California, TDC also trains Marriage and Family Therapists (which California has more of per capita than any other state) to pass their LMFT exam.  The social work program has a 95% pass rate and many rave reviews from prior clients.  The program costs $275 for social workers outside of California and goes up to $350 and $630 for the California social work packages.  TDC goes a long way to ensure their clients have increased confidence paired with decreased test anxiety.

Social Work Test Prep/Will

SWTP originated as a blog in 2009 and evolved into a full-fledged test prep program in 2012. Located in Los Angeles, CA, SWTP holds the distinction of being the lowest priced program available. The web-based program works with social workers anywhere there is an internet connection. They deliver resources that no other program offers including suggested study links for every exam question to give social work exam preparers an extra edge.

Catering exclusively to social workers, SWTP offers content for both the California BBS and ASWB exams. Membership packages for practice exams can be purchased for $35 up to $115 for bundles of four.  All users have access to their blog boards which include an option for group study and referrals for tutoring (currently sent to Susan Mankita, LCSW out of Miami, FL).  Exam subscriptions last for 60 days. The company does not track pass rates.  A free practice test, affordability, and exclusive dedication to social work and social workers work are features of SWTP.

Also, here’s a coupon code: SWH10 — good for an additional 10% off practice exams and bundles.

Dr. D/Sophia Dziegielewski

Dr. D has been a social work presence for many years now as referenced by her books, speaking engagements, and articles. Her ASWB exam prep program has been delivered across the country in various states since the 1990’s, and has helped over 18,000 social workers prepare for the exam. Her tools for delivery include across the country workshops and her well-known CD’s and DVD’s.  These discs provide hours of instruction on how to break down the exam items and teach what to look for in each item.  The cost of her services range from $225 for her CD/DVD bundles to as much as $290 for the workshops depending on location and length of program.

LMSW Bootcamp/Edith Chapparo

Since 2004, Edith Chaparro has taught social workers both in a Master’s program and as a tutor. This led to the establishment of the LMSW Bootcamp workshops in New York City. She incorporates bachelors, masters, and clinical level material into each workshop and her programs are exclusive to social work. In addition to the workshops, social workers can elect to join a small group class which meets weekly in Queens, Manhattan, and Suffolk. When asked, Edith says that her focus on strategy AND content and teaching the way the board tests are the hallmarks of her program. Clients of her program are also offered CD’s and workbooks for purchase. Prices for her services range from $35 for classess to $130 for her bootcamp workshops.

Pass it Pro/Idelle Datloff

Originally known as, this program began in Cincinnati, OH in May 2013 and has evolved into a full on test prep service.  This online based program is hosted at NASW Ohio and consists of 4 ½ hours of coursework including 46 slides plus narration that is content based for the ASWB exams. Clients get 60 days access to this information 24 hours a day along with an additional 90 minute Skype small group session (three participants max) which offers individual feedback and teaches test-takers how to identify the concept being tested in the application questions.

They have recently added tutoring as well. While PassItPro does not identify any pass rate, they do now offer a full refund (money-back guarantee) to anyone who takes the course and does not pass. Their Facebook page (still titled offers #75 free practice questions. They train social workers exclusively and proudly claim 11 different NASW state chapters which have endorsed their program.  The tutoring bills at $60/hour or $250 for a 5 hour package.  The cost of the full service is $225 for NASW members and $245 for non-members.


No matter what choice you make, you are bound to be better prepared having gotten some help than going it alone, so choose wisely. Take into consideration what your priorities are and which company offers you the best chance to be successful, and above all… keep moving forward. It’s the only way to get where you are going.

Taking the Social Work Licensure Exam

Social work licensure can be a dizzying experience for anyone who has graduated with a Bachelor or Master of Social Work. Preparing involves understanding the different requirements for each state, contacting the local state board that regulates licensure, and communicating with your local, state, and national NASW.  Grasping the educational provisions required by the CSWE and adhering to the procedures used by ASWB, it’s no wonder that of the 27,699 exams administered in 2013, there were 6,093 failed attempts.

social-workFor those of you who are quick with math, you’ve already figured out that number equates to a 78% pass rate for the five different licenses they offer, which may not sound too shabby.  But consider this, the pass rate only takes into account first time test takers for that calendar year.

So, no matter how many times someone has taken and failed the exam in previous years, if they passed in 2013, they were counted in that number.  The level of confusion only increases as social workers allow year after year to pass between graduation day and exam day.  This is enough to cause measurable anxiety.  So what do social workers do when it gets to this point?  We seek out help.

A few years ago one of the most intelligent social workers I have met passed her clinical social work exam and is now practicing in the state of Georgia. For her, passing meant not having to go through the process over again for her fifth time. As far as my personal experience, the social work clinical license exam was the hardest exam I’ve taken in my entire life!  I studied hard and thought I would walk right in and ace the test my first go around.  However, I missed the mark by more than 10 points.  I was devastated that I had to go through the painstaking process of retaking the exam.

After I was successful at passing, my goal became offering help to other social workers who are trying desperately to clear this hurdle.  I have been working with social work licensing ever since and while I have had the privilege of sharing in the joy of many success stories, I have also witnessed social workers fail the clinical exam by as little as a mere point.  Some give up while others only get hungrier to succeed.

One option is to get together with colleagues or fellow alumni to create study groups.  We dust off the old text books and pull out the faded notebooks and buckle down to help pull each other through the process.  This works for some, however, let’s say 2 of the 5 people in the study group pass the exam and the others don’t.  While the newly licensed social workers are celebrating their success, the others may be left back…disappearing in embarrassment.  So we want to ensure that we are sensitive to the needs of all in the group.

A different approach is to turn to outside resources to move us forward on our quest.  Online test preparation programs, face to face groups, individual tutors, DVD’s, CD’s, apps, podcasts, and handbooks are some of the widely used tools.  Some are endorsed by NASW on a national level and some are even offered at NASW local chapters.   There are also some companies who provide group study events all over the country and many schools of social work are now incorporating a test prep component into their curriculum.  Be mindful that some of these programs are created by people who are not social workers and others who offer all manners of exams ranging from the LSAT to the GRE.

Technology also plays a role in advancing many social workers towards passing their exams.  There are apps that are offered free, as well as ones that costs.  At this time there are only a handful available and they mainly offer flashcards and practice exam items.  Web camera products like Skype and Google Hangouts assist many social workers with connecting to others when we cannot meet face-to-face for a studying session.

Submit your social work licensure stories of success, struggle, and any questions you may have about the process.  This is the first of a series of articles on the topic and as the resident expert-you can expect a well researched and valuable response on the level of competence you have come to expect from Social Work Helper.   Future articles plan to have interviews with key players from organizations such as CSWE, NASW, state jurisdictions, ASWB, and various test prep providers.  We also plan to do feature stories with social workers who have faced the exam and lived to tell about it!

Did you know…

…that ASWB creates the exams for social workers in 49 states (except California), the US Virgin Islands, and all 10 of Canada’s provinces?

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