Conflicts Of Interest Social Work ExamTiptoeing through the NASW Code of Ethics, we come to 1.06, Conflicts of Interest. This is a big one. It's hard to imagine 170 social work exam questions that don't touch on this section. A lot. The section is in four parts A-D, which, nutshelled, look like this: a) Avoid conflicts of interest, tell clients about them when they happen, protecting clients' interests b) Don't take unfair advantage of the tx rx (therapeutic relationship). c) Avoid dual and multiple relationships; when unavoidable, set clear boundaries. d) Well, d is a little complicated. Here's the whole sub-section:

(d) When social workers provide services to two or more people who have a relationship with each other (for example, couples, family members), social workers should clarify with all parties which individuals will be considered clients and the nature of social workers' professional obligations to the various individuals who are receiving services. Social workers who anticipate a conflict of interest among the individuals receiving services or who anticipate having to perform in potentially conflicting roles (for example, when a social worker is asked to testify in a child custody dispute or divorce proceedings involving clients) should clarify their role with the parties involved and take appropriate action to minimize any conflict of interest.

"[F]or example, when a social worker is asked to testify in a child custody dispute or divorce proceedings involving clients"? Sounds like a licensing exam question. For example:

A social worker who has been doing couples therapy with a divorcing couple is asked by the mother to testify in a child custody hearing. How should the social worker proceed?

A. Agree to testify in the hearing only after meeting with the child.

B. Terminate couples therapy and agree to testify in the hearing.

C. Decline to testify and continue couples therapy.

D. Decline to testify and terminate couples therapy.

What's the best course here? Once upon a time, the NASW posted some guidance in Social Workers and Confidentiality for Couples Counseling. Here's the relevant paragraph:

Social workers who terminate treatment with one member of a couple and continue to provide services to the other should keep in mind that the duty remains to protect the interests of the former client. Generally, it is advisable for social workers who have provided couples or family therapy to decline voluntary involvement in divorce or custody proceedings. Involvement that is based on the receipt of a subpoena is addressed below.

So the best answer is C, decline to testify and continue couples therapy. Maybe it should say attempt to continue couples therapy, but just because it doesn't,  doesn't disqualify the answer. This isn't an easy one, by any stretch. It requires not just knowing the relevant section of the code, but knowing how to apply it in a real-world-style situation. Just like the real exam.

For more about Conflicts of Interest, take a look at:

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November 12, 2015
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