Ethical Standard of the Month:
1.16 Referral for Services

The NASW Code of Ethics Referral for Services standard was revised in two ways. First, the standard, previously numbered 2.06 is now 1.16. Second, the language in 1.16(a) was modified to clarify that referrals for services in this context address situations when social workers identify new services to replace services currently being provided. The previous reference to “additional services” was changed to “other services” to specify that new services and not additional services are being referred.

For example, if the therapist determines that the client needs a higher level of care, the therapist should refer the client to another provider. The current reference to “other services” implies that the therapist would refer the client to another therapist for services. The previous language, “additional services” implied that the current therapist would continue with the client while referring the client for additional services with another provider. In situations that warrant the referral for services, this may or may not be the case. 


The standard now reads: “Social workers should refer clients to other professionals when the other professionals’ specialized knowledge or expertise is needed to serve clients fully or when social workers believe that they are not being effective or making reasonable progress with clients and that other services are required.”