Dealing With an Ethical Dilemma? NASW Can Help!
“Is it okay to
terminate with a client who isn't progressing and no longer adheres to the
recommended treatment plan?”
“My employer isn’t a social worker and asked
me to post my clients' records in a portal that doesn’t protect their privacy
and confidentiality; what should I do?”
These are just two questions that can create
unexpected challenges for social workers through the course of their work life.
But there is good news for NASW members. If you find yourself in an ethical dilemma, we’re here to
help. Turn to NASW for trusted guidance. NASW adopted the profession’s Code of
Ethics in 1960 and since then, we have guided thousands of social workers
through unexpected ethical challenges.
Get to Know the NASW Office of Ethics and Professional Review
The NASW Office of Ethics and
Professional Review (OEPR) educates members on the Code of Ethics, provides
free ethics consultations and conducts professional reviews. If you find
yourself in need of their services, you’ll hardly be alone. In 2021, OEPR received
more than 700 member requests for ethics consultations.
Andrea Murray, MSW, LICSW, Director, Office of
Ethics and Professional Review, has spent over 14 years helping members through
provides consultations to current NASW members who are experiencing an ethical
dilemma,” she explained. “We don’t provide advice or tell members what to do;
however, we do guide them through the Code and point them to the areas of the
Code that address their concerns.”
to ethics consultations, OEPR offers other resources that allow members to make
ethical decisions and may refer you to legal resources, state licensing boards,
professional liability insurers, and relevant NASW
Access Educational Resources for the NASW Code of Ethics
Understanding the Code of Ethics from the start can make
handling these situations easier. That’s why, beyond one-on-one ethics
consultations, OEPR develops ethics training resources available to all NASW
- Understanding the NASW Code of Ethics — a new interactive online course that provides a comprehensive
overview of the NASW Code of Ethics through the lens of featured social work
ethics experts. The course provides three ethics continuing education credits.
- The Ethical Standard of the Month Series examines a specific standard in the NASW Code of Ethics and related
resources to promote understanding and appropriate application of the Code.
- The Ethics 8 Series offers members eight useful tips relevant to prevailing ethical
issues in social work.
Understand the Professional
Finally, OEPR administers NASW’s professional review process.
This peer review process examines complaints filed against social workers for
alleged violations of the NASW Code of Ethics. It’s a collaborative process
between the National Ethics Committee, chapters and the national office to
review alleged unethical conduct of members and correct and improve the
practice of individual social workers as needed.
NASW’s Procedures for
Professional Review guide the processing of inquiries and complaints via
criteria that determine which matters will be accepted for review.
These criteria filter inquiries and
complaints that aren’t commensurate with the scope and intent of NASW’s peer
In 2021, OEPR processed over 600 professional review inquiries
from the public. Less than two percent of those inquiries resulted in a
professional review case.
“OEPR plays a vital role in helping consumers of social
work and allied services get their questions answered and obtain information
about the opportunities for redress when they have ethics concerns,” said
The Importance of the OEPR
NASW members rank ethics consultations as a highly valued
benefit of membership.
uniquely poised to offer consultation based on the NASW Code of Ethics which
has been the prevailing standard for ethical practice in social work for more
than 60 years,” said Murray.
plans for an ethical dilemma to pop up, but when one does, you can feel
confident in how to handle the unexpected situation. Finding your way through a
gray area is a lot less stressful knowing you have NASW’s strong and knowledgeable
support behind you.
Learn more about the NASW Code of Ethics, and how the OEPR supports NASW members