spotlight--commitment to clients Here begins a (possible) series of posts highlighting sections of the NASW Code of Ethics as a way of helping deepen understanding and prepare for the social work licensing exam.  First up, section 1.01, Commitment to Clients:

Commitment to Clients

Social workers' primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients. In general, clients' interests are primary. However, social workers' responsibility to the larger society or specific legal obligations may on limited occasions supersede the loyalty owed clients, and clients should be so advised. (Examples include when a social worker is required by law to report that a client has abused a child or has threatened to harm self or others.)

This Eye on Ethics column, by Dr. Frederic Reamer, asks questions rooted in this section just like those that might show up in an exam vignette:

To what extent do clients have the right to engage in seemingly self-destructive courses of action? How should social workers respond when a battered woman decides to return to her abuser's home to "give him one more chance?"

Dr. Reamer answers:

Such circumstances force social workers to balance their commitment to clients' right to self-determination and their instinct to protect clients from themselves, or what moral philosophers refer to as paternalism. Paternalism occurs when social workers interfere with individuals' right to self-determination to protect them from self-harm.

So, when a vignette asks a question centered around self-determination, ask yourself if the answer you're tempted to select would be paternalistic. Or is the imagined client entering certain peril? Usually, the possibility of harm is not sufficient to warrant heavy-handed intervention by a social worker--especially the ideal social worker you're trying to be when sitting for the exam! 

For questions echoing the real social work exam about ethics and more, sign up.

October 28, 2013
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