Bowling DecisionLast stop in part one of the NASW Code of Ethics is Termination of Services. Its six parts go like this:

Social workers...

  • Should terminate when services no longer helpful.
  • Should not abandon clients; client best interest is the first priority.
  • May terminate if clients when fees haven't been paid (special conditions apply)
  • Should not terminate to pursue another relationship with client (social, financial, or sexual).
  • Should notify clients ahead of termination and seek to ensure continuation of services elsewhere if desired.
  • Should notify clients when leaving an employment setting, ensuring continuation of services.

There are more than a few exam questions that this section lends itself to. "A client is showing no new progress…what should the social worker do?" Terminate. "A social worker finds a client exhausting, but therapy is productive…" Don't terminate. "A client has a long overdue balance…" Terminate. "A client asks a social worker on a date…" Don't terminate (at least not to have the date).

You might also encounter questions about referral-making when terminating. Or terminations mandated by limited insurance coverage. Knowing the code should help with all of the above.

Does it help with this?

A social worker has a client who has been dating a good friend of the social worker's. The friend plans to begin bringing the client to the weekly bowling night that the social worker has been attending for years, as well as to other social events that the social worker had planned to attend. How should the social worker proceed?

A) Stop attending the bowling night and other events to avoid a dual relationship with the client.

B) Ask the friend to hold off on bringing the client to the bowling night and other events until it is clear the relationship is serious.

C) Discuss the conflict with the client and explore possible referrals for the client.

D) Discuss the conflict with the client and continue services.

This isn't all that simple. Let's take it one answer at a time. Social workers are expected to avoid social events that they know clients are attending when possible. But this isn't just a one-time, easily missed event--it's a long-standing series of events, spreading out into the future. Attending the events creates a dual relationship. Skipping the events might lead to resentment from the social worker toward the client--a sort of dual relationship of its own. Asking the friend breaches client confidentiality (not to mention asking too much of the friend). That leaves discussing. Discussing and continuing or discussing and terminating. Or not even terminating--it just says "explore possible referrals." That's pretty mild. There's no client abandonment proposed here. Just a conversation about possibly terminating. Given the circumstances, that (C) looks like the best way to go.

If it were just one wedding both the client and social worker were invited to, what then? One funeral? Turning some of these possibilities over in your mind keeps you one step ahead of exam item writers and all-the-more ready to pass the social work licensing exam. Good luck!

For further reading:

And here, to save you clicking, is the full text from the termination section of the Code:

(a) Social workers should terminate services to clients and professional relationships with them when such services and relationships are no longer required or no longer serve the clients' needs or interests.

(b) Social workers should take reasonable steps to avoid abandoning clients who are still in need of services. Social workers should withdraw services precipitously only under unusual circumstances, giving careful consideration to all factors in the situation and taking care to minimize possible adverse effects. Social workers should assist in making appropriate arrangements for continuation of services when necessary.

(c) Social workers in fee-for-service settings may terminate services to clients who are not paying an overdue balance if the financial contractual arrangements have been made clear to the client, if the client does not pose an imminent danger to self or others, and if the clinical and other consequences of the current nonpayment have been addressed and discussed with the client.

(d) Social workers should not terminate services to pursue a social, financial, or sexual relationship with a client.

(e) Social workers who anticipate the termination or interruption of services to clients should notify clients promptly and seek the transfer, referral, or continuation of services in relation to the clients' needs and preferences.

(f) Social workers who are leaving an employment setting should inform clients of appropriate options for the continuation of services and of the benefits and risks of the options.

For questions about termination, dual relationships, and much more, sign up for SWTP practice tests!

December 15, 2015
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