ASWB Exam Prep: Healthy Boundaries in Counseling

By Heidi Tobe on November 4, 2019

Whether you work in clinical or non-clinical social work, establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries is so important in our field. Thankfully, the ASWB recognizes this and considers it important enough to put on their licensing exams. Questions regarding boundaries regularly show up on the LMSW and LCSW exams and we want to ensure all of our customers are ready for these questions when they show up. Regardless of whether you’re a pro at setting healthy boundaries or struggle in this realm, we’re here to help you get ready for this topic on the exam (and hopefully outside the exam, too!).

Before jumping into this week’s practice question, let’s discuss just a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to boundary settings.

Don’t:

Wait until an issue comes up to address boundaries. Boundaries and expectations should always be covered at the beginning of therapy (and discussions should continue throughout therapy as needed).

Ignore red flags that a client may have inappropriate boundaries. When a client pushes boundaries or shares something about a previous therapeutic relationship that raises a red flag, address it in the moment rather than waiting to see how it plays out.

Feel guilty for establishing and maintaining boundaries. It is healthier both for you and your client to have appropriate clinical boundaries. For them, it may provide practice in an area they struggle with in their personal life. For you, it will help prevent possible resentment or burnout.

Do:

Make discussions on boundaries part of the start of every therapeutic relationship. This will set both you and your client up for success.

Address issues when they come up. As is the case in any relationship (the therapeutic relationship included), issues can come up. Many people have never learned how to have healthy discussions around difficult topics, so this is an opportunity to model for your client what this can look like.

Be willing to make exceptions for extraordinary situations, as you are comfortable. Throughout the course of your career there may be a time when a client experiences something significant in their life and boundaries may temporarily shift to allow greater therapeutic support for a limited amount of time. Some examples of this may include things like increasing frequency of appointments or having phone check ins. Know that when this occurs, the actions you take should still always follow the code of ethics.

Let’s see how you do on an ASWB exam practice question on establishing boundaries. 

ASWB Practice Question:

A social worker meets with a new client presenting with ongoing issues of anxiety, depression, and interpersonal difficulties. The client shares that she felt like her last therapist didn’t care about her because she was only willing to speak with her during scheduled calls and appointments and didn’t answer texts and calls in between sessions. What is the MOST important thing for the social worker to do:

A. Explain that calls and texts between sessions go against the Code of Ethics

B. Discuss the social worker’s policies for calls and texts between sessions

C. Set a limit to the number of calls and texts allowed per week

D. Explore the client’s feelings around the prior therapists boundaries

The correct answer is B: to discuss the social worker’s policies for calls and texts between sessions. A is incorrect because the Code of Ethics does not state it is unethical for calls or texts to occur between the client and social worker. While the social worker may do C,  it is not as important as discussing the social worker’s policies for calls and texts. Similarly, while exploring the client’s feelings about the prior therapists boundaries may occur (and even could come FIRST if that is what the question were asking) it is not MORE important than discussing the current social worker’s policies. 

ASWB Masters and Clinical Exam Preparation

We hope this blog leaves you feeling a bit more prepared on boundary questions that could show up on your ASWB exams. Know that you will get a lot more practice with these types of questions through our LMSW and LCSW exam prep programs. Thousands of social workers have passed their exams with confidence using our programs. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our real customer testimonials where customers share their experiences using TDC. One of the best parts of TDC is that every customer is paired with a coach they can email with any questions that arise during the exam prep process. Are you ready to PASS your exam


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