Habits of Thinking: Cognitive Shortcuts’ Effects on Providers’ and Clients’ Decisions



Live Webinar | November 2, 2021, Noon - 2 p.m. ET
Instructor: Jennifer Halpern, Ph.D., LMSW, APHSW-C

Level: Intermediate
CEs: 2 CEs are available for $5 fee
Review CE accreditation and approvals for this course.

Our work as social workers often involves supporting our clients and their families through difficult decisions. Numerous factors influence how decisions are made, including our own and our clients’ habits of thinking. These might include, for example, whether individuals are accustomed to thinking about the decision context, or whether they depend on specific people to help them make a decision. Deepening our understanding of decision making will help us make more effective decisions, as well as respond to and guide clients, helping them to find approaches that are more mindful and less reactive. To this end, this course will discuss a standard decision-making process that describes how we generally make choices. We will then explore how and why factors — including emotional stress, uncertainty, and incomplete information — alter the usefulness of the standard model. We will examine how cognitive shortcuts (called cognitive heuristics) that serve us well in our daily decision making can, under stressful circumstances, instead lead to what are called cognitive biases, or errors, that negatively affect decision outcomes. Some of these cognitive heuristics include availability bias, framing effect, confirmation bias and the false consensus effect. Taking these influences into account improves our own decision-making skill and our ability to improve how we navigate conversations with our clients. Better decision making and clearer conversations will improve treatment plans. 

Target Audience: 

Social workers and other social service providers

Course Delivery Method, Format and Instructor Interaction :

Live interactive webinar with lecture, polls and time for questions at the end. Participants will utilize the Q and A feature in Zoom webinar. Login information will be emailed immediately after registration to the email address entered during registration. Attendees are not visible or audible during this presentation and attendees can communicate with the presenter utilizing the Q and A feature in Zoom.

System Requirements:

Attendees will need access to a computer in order to see panelists and information shared. To hear the audio, attendees need to be able to connect to Zoom by computer or phone. All courses are offered using Zoom conferencing software. 

Registration Fees and Deadlines:

Early registration by September 15, 2021: $40
Regular registration by November 1, 2021: $50

CEs: 2 CEs are available for $5 fee 

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain the basic decision-making process.
  2. Name 4 cognitive heuristics (also called cognitive biases) that challenge the basic decision-making process.
  3. Describe a technique for debiasing (correcting) these cognitive biases.
  4. Recognize some aspects of how an individual’s background may affect their approach to treatment planning.


Noon - 12:30 p.m. ET: 

  1. Standard decision making process for social workers
  2. Importance of collaborative decision making 
  3. Introduce cognitive shortcuts/cognitive heuristics 

12:30-12:40: Q and A


  1. Potential for cognitive biases (also known as predictable errors) 
  2. Description & examples of typical cognitive biases or habits of thinking 
    1. Availability bias
    2. False Consensus effect
    3. Framing Effect
    4. Confirmation Bias
  3. Tips for communication  and meetings
  4. Correcting habits/cognitive errors 

1:45 - 2 p.m. ET: Q and A

About the Instructor:

Jennifer Halpern, Ph.D., LMSW, APHSW-C, is a senior certified palliative social worker at the Oncology Support Program (OSP) of the HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, working with inpatients and outpatients. She is the Psychosocial Coordinator for the hospital’s Cancer Committee and Chair of the Ethics Committee. Before joining them the Social Work in Hospice and Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) Board of Directors, serving on the Education Committee, she developed the Curriculum Guide for the APHSW certification exam. Jennifer received her doctorate in social psychology/organizational behavior from UC Berkeley, and was an assistant professor at Cornell University.

Completion Requirements for Live Webinars

Live webinars are synchronous lectures with a moderated Q&A at the end. To receive a CE certificate, you must attend the entirety of the webinar. Partial credit will not be awarded to those who attend only a portion of the webinar. For webinars, participant attendance is tracked through Zoom and participants must complete an evaluation and successfully pass a post test with a score of at least 80 percent. Retesting is allowed up to five (5) times. If a passing score is not achieved, CEs will not be awarded. Links to online evaluations and post tests will be emailed to participants within 24 hours of the conclusion of the course. It is attendee’s responsibility to contact their state licensing board/certification boards to determine eligibility to meet continuing education requirements.

How Will a CE Certificate Be Awarded?

Upon completing the webinar evaluation and successfully passing the post test, participants will be emailed their online certificate​ within 30 days of webinar completion​. ​Participants should save and/or print ​the certificate upon receipt for ​their records. Receiving the CE certificate is contingent on attendance and completion of the evaluation and passing the post test.

Continuing Education Credits and Approvals

Continuing Education (CE) credits offered vary by course. This course only offers the CE credits listed below.  It is the attendees' responsibility to contact their licensing board to determine eligibility to meet continuing education requirements.

Social Work
  • Smith College School for Social Work, #1755, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. Smith College School for Social Work maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 11/19/2020-11/19-2021. Social workers completing this course receive 2 continuing education credits.
  • Smith College School for Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and is therefore authorized to provide CEs as a postsecondary institution accredited by CSWE in many states. Courses offered through the School’s Program of Professional Education are awarded continuing education credits in accordance with Continuing Education Regulation 258, CMR, 31.00 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 
  • Smith College School for Social Work is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #SW-0169.


  • Co-sponsored training events for psychology CE credit with Smith College School for Social Work. Amego Prepare​ is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Amego Prepare maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Due to changes in continuing education requirements for NY licensed psychologists, APA CE Sponsor credits may not be accepted for re-licensure at this time. Please check the NY Psychology Board regulations for CE requirements currently in effect.
Not Approved for Counselors (LMHC/LPC)
  • Smith College School for Social Work has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 7110. This program does NOT qualify for NBCC ACEP approval. 

SSW Professional Education Policies

Further information on policies and CE accreditation can be found here.

Contact SSW Professional Education


Lilly Hall
23 West Street,
Northampton, MA 01060
sswpe@smith.edu | 413-585-7970

Director of Professional Education

Pronouns: she/her
E: mcurtin@smith.edu or dirpe@smith.edu
P: 413-585-4198