Will You Survive the Workforce After Passing the Social Work Exam?

It’s likely you have what it takes to pass the LCSW exam. Though passing the social work exam gets you licensed, there is a learning curve when it comes to actual practice.

Many new social workers approach the field with a certain sense of believing that each one of his or her clients will benefit from his or her services. These social workers eventually find out that not every client will want to change for a variety of reasons. Understanding this will help a new social worker immensely with integration into the new field.

Lisa Baron, MSW, LCSW, contributes to The Social Work Careers Magazine and has been a clinical social worker for more than 25 years. Her article, Tips for New Social Workers, addresses and debunks 10 myths new social workers tend to believe based on “some belief patterns in many of the students I teach.”

Baron begins with a disclaimer to social work students who have yet to pass the LCSW exam. She explains the importance of a career in working with people and goes on to say that “people are complex and you will be amazed, mesmerized, frustrated, disappointed, angered.” She encourages students to “Be realistic about what to expect,” then goes on to list her 10 myths. Below, we describe the facts that her 10 myths suggest.

  1. You will not be able to help all clients all the time. Only the clients that want help can be helped. It’s likely you'll somehow affect each client, though, regardless of the outcome.
  2. Some client stories will personally affect you. Some client stories may trigger personal feelings of your own. Baron suggests seeking your own personal therapy because “a key part of your work [is] understanding and working through clinical countertransference.”
  3. You might take work home sometimes. Because some client stories will trigger an emotional response in you, it’s important to find balance and make time for yourself. See AATBS’s article, Leaving the Emotional Stress of Social Work at the Office.
  4. You might not click with all your clients. It's important to find strengths in every client you see and to focus on these strengths.
  5. You will never stop learning. Although you have what it takes to pass the Social Work exam, you will still have a learning curve upon entering your new profession. Baron says, “A true professional never stops learning.”
  6. Regardless of how you grew up, you will have vulnerabilities that affect your work. No one has lived a perfect life. The more you see clients, the more vulnerabilities you might find in yourself.
  7. Silence in therapy sessions is okay and beneficial. Helping professionals might tend to fill silence in a therapy session, fearing that silence is not beneficial to the client. Baron explains, “Silence in the room is as valuable as words” because it gives a client time to process his or her emotions. 
  8. Client goals must be made by the client. Being a dedicated social worker could mean you have outcomes you would like to see in your clients. For a client to reach a goal, though, the goal must be made by the client.
  9. Therapy is more about relationship and less about fixing. The quicker we are to fix a client's problem, the less likely we are to succeed. Baron says, “Therapy is not about fixing; it’s a process between two people that is based on a trusting relationship.”
  10. Have integrity and honesty. Helping professions, such as social work, tend to attract people of a similar nature. This does not mean you will have everything in common with everyone. Regardless, have integrity and honesty in your practice and workplace every day.


Read Baron’s full article here.