Social Work Ethics

Written by Beth Hrusch
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The question of ethics in social work is central to the field itself. After all, this is a profession in which a certain degree of intimacy exists between the counselor and client. Social workers must be able to assess the causes of problems and find practical solutions for them, and can only do this when there is open and honest communication. Ethical guidelines keep the social worker focused on the well-being of the client at a difficult time.

Ethics Are a Requirement

Every social worker should have a thorough knowledge of the NASW Code of Ethics. Basically, this is a set of standards by which social workers can abide when ethical decisions must be made. Many times, a social worker will have to make judgements on an individual basis. At these times, the Code can offer a guideline so that the counselor can act within the spirit of the law.

For example, confidentiality issues often arise in the field of social work. When this occurs, the social worker can assess whether information about a client's diagnosis and treatment can be divulged to another person by applying ethical standards to the case. Social workers also have a responsibility to behave in a trustworthy manner toward their clients. This means that they will not abuse the trust given to them in any way.

Ethics also require the social worker to maintain high professional standards by constantly updating their education. This is done through continuing education, wherein CEUs (continuing education units) are earned online or in a classroom setting. This ensures that the social worker is up-to-date on the latest information, and can therefore provide optimum care to his or her clients. Ethical standards protect both parties in this professional relationship.


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