Oh, the places we could go with this topic! Intervention encompasses a majority of what clinical social workers and therapists do -- from the first interaction with a client until termination is complete, we're intervening. So, let's focus in and look at one way this topic can come up on the exam.
In an initial session with a therapist, a 42 year-old man reports feelings of nervousness and difficulty sleeping. When the therapist attempts to clarify the client's feelings, he begins discussing conflicts with coworkers and an increase in arguments with his wife. He goes on to report that he's been thinking about going back to school for an advanced degree but can't make a decision and would like the therapist's help. What should the therapist do NEXT?
A. Refer the client for a psychiatric evaluation
B. Assist the client in prioritizing treatment objectives
C. Teach the client stress-reduction techniques
D. Validate the client's feelings of anxiety
While there are no hard and fast rules about which interventions occur when, you can think about the stages of treatment and the interventions that typically occur in each stage. It helps to create associations between specific words and the stage in which they usually occur -- that way when you look at a stem or answer options, you can more easily rule out or rule in particular choices. Let's just think about the beginning stage of treatment. While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are some of the terms that I associate with the initial stage of treatment: joining, trust-building, assessing, prioritizing, goal-setting, objectives, treatment planning, problem identification, reason for referral. When the stem refers to the beginning stage of treatment, you may want to look for these words in your answer choices, BUT it's important to remember that just because an answer starts with the right word doesn't mean it's the BEST answer.
The answer to the above question is B; the client is presenting with a list of problems and symptoms of anxiety, which means that helping him prioritize treatment objectives should be a first step in helping reduce anxiety and focus treatment. A is not the best answer because the stem gives you no indication that the severity of the client's symptoms would warrant a psychiatric evaluation. C is not the best answer because this intervention would typically occur a bit later in treatment -- after treatment objectives had been established. D is not the best answer because validating feelings of anxiety only addresses one piece of what the client is giving you, and it may only serve to increase the client's feelings of anxiety.
Coming up next week: Termination
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.
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