Here's a wordy item from the ASWB content outline. Among the knowledge, skills, and abilities the exam aims to assess. Do you know the principles and techniques for building and maintaining a helping relationship?

You mean, like, everything that social workers do? We develop rapport, we meet clients where they're at, we try to be understanding, caring, and consistent. All that?

The web has some ways at this question. One way to approach it is by considering what helping is not:

  • advice giving
  • reprimanding
  • punishing

Social workers should avoid scolding and inventing consequences for clients-the world outside the social worker-client relationship has that well covered. But: advice giving isn't helping? That may not as intuitive. But it's right. Social work aims to help clients develop their strengths and problem-solving skills. Suggesting what a client does is rarely a best course of action. Not FIRST, NEXT, or BEST (to put it in exam language).

Here's a list from a consulting firm that spells out principles of building and maintaining a client relationship (in this case a consultant-client relationship).

  1. Maintain a positive attitude
  2. Engage and influence
  3. Be proactive and responsive
  4. Operate with maturity
  5. Work with the bigger picture
  6. Deliver insights

Sounds not unlike what social workers do. One item that sticks out: operate with maturity. That phrase doesn't appear in the NASW Code of Ethics, but isn't it more or less what the whole Code is spelling out?

The values and ethical principles that kick off the Code are both a description of the principles and techniques for building and maintaining a helping relationship plus a call to operate with maturity:

Value: Service
Ethical Principle: Social workers' primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems

Value: Social Justice
Ethical Principle: Social workers challenge social injustice.

Value: Dignity and Worth of the Person
Ethical Principle: Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.

Value: Importance of Human Relationships
Ethical Principle: Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships.

Value: Integrity
Ethical Principle: Social workers behave in a trustworthy manner.

Value: Competence
Ethical Principle: Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise.

If the social work licensing exam had essay questions and you were asked about the principles and techniques for building and maintaining a helping relationship, all of the above would give you plenty to write about. Happily, the test is simpler than that: 170 multiple choice questions each with three or four possible answers usually taken over the course of four hours.

Keeping everything above in mind will probably help you both be an effective social worker and an effective exam taker.

What might a question on the ASWB rooted in this topic look like? You tell us. Write us with a sample-maybe we'll post it here.

Meanwhile, return here for more ASWB exam content spotlighting. And sign up with SWTP for realistic practice to really get you prepped to pass.

Happy studying and good luck on the exam!

January 13, 2023
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