Last stop in part one of
NASW Code of Ethics is Termination of Services. Its six parts
go like this:
- Should terminate when services no longer helpful.
- Should not abandon clients; client best interest is the first
- May terminate if clients when fees haven't been paid (special
- 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
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
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
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
(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
For questions about termination, dual relationships, and
much more, sign up for SWTP practice
December 15, 2015