Here's a quick, free exam-style question. A little practice, outside of our full-length practice tests, to get you ever-more prepared for the licensing exam.

A psychiatric hospital social worker tells her supervisor she's been feeling irritable, exhausted, restless at night, and unsure of her ability to do her job anymore. She's thinking of quitting. The supervisor suggests a new hobby, some exercise, and time with friends. How is the supervisor most likely conceptualizing the social worker's complaints?

A) As depression.

B) As adjustment disorder.

C) As compassion fatigue.

D) As acute stress disorder.

What do you think?

This one's pretty easily narrowed down. Does the supervisor think that the social worker has clinically significant, diagnosable symptoms? If so, you have three choices. Adjustment disorder is probably the best of those. But you're not given symptom duration or severity. So a diagnosis is pretty much not doable here.

That leaves one answer standing. The one that's not in the DSM. C, compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is well-known to most front-line social workers. This article in Good Therapy outlines the most common causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Among the causes, encountering extremes at work (danger, suicide, death, trauma). A psych ward social worker is likely to be exposed to all of the above.

Symptoms of compassion fatigue look a lot like depression: low mood, sleep difficulty, weight loss, fatigue, self-doubt.

How do you remedy the symptoms? The first approach is the one not often available to social workers: reduce work stress. If that's not possible, everything you'd recommend to a depressive client is likely to be helpful. Sleep, meditate, eat better, take up a hobby, find social support.

For a social worker aiming to pass the social work licensing exam, all those helpful tools can get squeezed out. Please remember to breathe and take care of yourself as you're exam prepping. The work you do and will do is important. Take care of yourself!

And good luck on the exam!

September 21, 2018
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