physical contact nasw code of ethics Here's a section of the code worth reviewing. It may seem simple at first, but can get complicated once you get into the details--section 1.10, Physical Contact:

Social workers should not engage in physical contact with clients when there is a possibility of psychological harm to the client as a result of the contact (such as cradling or caressing clients). Social workers who engage in appropriate physical contact with clients are responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries that govern such physical contact.

A licensing exam item might ask about the appropriateness of hugging a client. The guideline here is, it depends. You can rule out "never okay" and "always okay" answers. Now you've got a 50/50 chance of picking the right answer from the two likely to be remaining. Remember the code here--no physical contact "when there is a possibility of psychological harm to the client." That is, when retraumatization or boundary issues are in play. Don't retraumatize. Don't hug vignette clients who have problems with boundaries. Like that.

Here's Allan Barsky in going into more detail in Ethics and Values in Social Work (via Google Books). Click through to read. But feel free not to--remember that overstudying can make a whole different type of trouble for your social work exam prep as studying too little.

Good luck!

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November 12, 2013
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