Next up as we navigate our way through the ASWB exam content outline: The elements of a case presentation. Let's review then examine how this info may look on the social work exam.

Case Presentations

Case presentation format and requirements can vary widely from site to site, from meeting to meeting, and from supervisor to supervisor. Here are the key elements commonly included in a case presentation:

  • Client Demographics: Start by providing basic information about the client, such as age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and any other relevant demographic details.

  • Presenting Problem: Describe the reason the client sought assistance or was referred for services. This could include the client's primary concerns, symptoms, or issues they are facing.

  • Background Information: Offer a brief overview of the client's personal history, including family dynamics, educational background, employment status, housing situation, and any significant life events that may be relevant to their current situation.

  • Social and Environmental Factors: Discuss the client's social support system, relationships, cultural factors, and environmental circumstances that may impact their well-being or contribute to their presenting problem.

  • Assessment: Present findings from assessments or evaluations conducted with the client, including their strengths, needs, risks, and protective factors. This may involve using standardized assessment tools, clinical observations, or information gathered through interviews.

  • Goals and Objectives: Outline the client's goals for intervention and any objectives set to achieve those goals. It's generally preferred that goals be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

  • Intervention Plan: Describe the interventions or strategies proposed to address the client's needs and work towards their goals. This could include individual therapy, group therapy, case management, advocacy, referrals to other services, or collaboration with other professionals.

  • Progress to Date: Provide an update on the client's progress since the initiation of services, including any changes in their symptoms, functioning, or circumstances. Highlight successes, challenges, and areas for further attention.

  • Collaboration and Coordination: Discuss any collaboration or coordination efforts with other professionals, agencies, or community resources involved in the client's care. This could include interdisciplinary team meetings, case conferences, or referrals to external service providers.

  • Plan for Continued Support: Outline the next steps in the intervention process, including ongoing monitoring, adjustments to the intervention plan as needed, and plans for follow-up or discharge.

  • Ethical and Legal Considerations: Address any ethical dilemmas or legal issues relevant to the case, ensuring that interventions are in line with professional standards and legal requirements.

  • Reflection and Supervision Needs: Reflect on the case presentation, identifying lessons learned, challenges encountered, and areas where further supervision or support may be needed to enhance practice effectiveness and client outcomes.

By including these elements in a case presentation, social workers can effectively communicate important information about their clients' needs, progress, and plans for intervention while promoting collaboration and accountability within multidisciplinary teams.


Here's a sample case presentation--using all of the above--for a hypothetical client named "Sarah," who is seeking assistance for depression and anxiety:

Client Demographics:

  • Sarah is a 32-year-old Caucasian woman.
  • She lives alone in an apartment in downtown.
  • Sarah is employed full-time as a marketing assistant in a local firm.

Presenting Problem:

  • Sarah presents with symptoms of depression and anxiety, reporting feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worry that have been persistent for the past six months.
  • She states that she has difficulty sleeping and concentrating at work due to intrusive thoughts and worries about her performance.

Background Information:

  • Sarah grew up in a middle-class family with both parents and an older brother.
  • She describes her childhood as generally happy but notes that her parents divorced when she was in high school, which was a significant stressor.
  • Sarah completed a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration but struggled to find stable employment after graduation, which contributed to her feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Social and Environmental Factors:

  • Sarah reports feeling socially isolated since moving to the city for work two years ago.
  • She has few close friends in the area and does not have much contact with her family, who live in another state.
  • Sarah's apartment is clean and well-kept, but she mentions feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of living independently.


  • Client has moderate-severe symptoms of depression and generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Sarah demonstrates strengths in her ability to articulate her feelings and seek help, as well as her commitment to attending therapy sessions regularly.

Goals and Objectives:

  • Goal 1: Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety to improve Sarah's overall well-being and functioning.
    • Objective: Decrease self-reported symptoms by 50% within three months through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques.
  • Goal 2: Enhance Sarah's social support network and sense of connectedness.
    • Objective: Participate in at least one social activity outside of work per week.

Intervention Plan:

  • Weekly individual therapy sessions using CBT to address negative thought patterns and develop coping skills.
  • Psychoeducation on relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and stress management strategies.
  • Referral to a psychiatrist for medication evaluation and management if indicated.
  • Encouragement of participation in community events or interest-based groups to expand social connections.

Progress to Date:

  • Sarah has attended three therapy sessions and reports some improvement in her mood and sleep patterns.
  • She has expressed interest in joining a local book club and has initiated contact with the group organizer.

Collaboration and Coordination:

  • Coordination with Sarah's primary care physician to monitor any physical health concerns related to her mental health symptoms.
  • Collaboration with the HR department at Sarah's workplace to explore accommodations or support services that may be available to her as an employee.

Plan for Continued Support:

  • Continue weekly therapy sessions with regular progress assessments.
  • Monitor medication compliance and effectiveness if psychiatric referral is pursued.
  • Encourage ongoing participation in social activities and provide support as needed.

Ethical and Legal Considerations:

  • Ensure confidentiality and informed consent in all aspects of treatment.
  • Adhere to professional ethical guidelines and standards of practice in providing care to Sarah.

Reflection and Supervision Needs:

  • Reflect on the therapeutic relationship and explore any countertransference issues that may arise.
  • Seek supervision or consultation as needed to address complex case dynamics or ethical dilemmas.

On the Exam

Thankfully, the ASWB is multiple choice. You will not be asked to do a case presentation to pass the test. The topic may still appear looking something like this:

  • Which of the following elements is typically included in a case presentation?
  • In a case presentation, what is the purpose of discussing the client's social and environmental factors?
  • Why is it important to address ethical and legal considerations in a case presentation?

And, of course, you'll encounter lots of vignette questions--themselves like mini case presentations--asking you to assess, diagnose, choose a FIRST or NEXT step, etc.

Get a ton of practice with questions like those on SWTP's full-length practice tests. Ready?

Let's Go.

March 29, 2024
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