Popular social work ethics session returns this year

Frederic G. ReamerFrederic G. Reamer, a social work ethics expert and professsor at the Rhode Island College School of Social Work, gives an ethics presentation during the NASW national Hope Conference in 2012. Reamer will be a plenary speaker at this year’s NASW national conference, “Social Work: Courage, Hope & Leadership,” which takes place July 23-26 in Washington, D.C.
— Photos by Kea Taylor/Imagine Photography

The intersection of social work and technology has grown, and with it comes a host of ethical concerns, says Frederic G. Reamer.

Reamer, a social work ethics expert and professor at the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College, said digital technology influences clinical social work, human services, policy, practice and social work advocacy in unprecedented ways.

“Social workers of every stripe — regardless of their station in the profession — are faced with decisions about whether and how to use digital technology in their professional lives,” he said.

Reamer will be among the plenary speakers at the NASW national conference “Social Work: Courage, Hope & Leadership” taking place July 23-26 in Washington, D.C.

His plenary session, “The Interface of Ethics and Technology,” will identify pertinent ethical and ethically related risk-management issues that social workers need to consider if they contemplate using technology to assist people in need.

“I will provide an overview of compelling ethical issues concerning, one: social workers’ use of digital technology to communicate with clients in relatively new ways, and two: whether social workers’ use of digital technology alters the fundamental nature of the helping relationship,” Reamer said.

A growing number of contemporary practitioners are using video counseling, email chat, social networking websites, text messaging, smartphone apps, avatar-based websites, self-guided, web-based interventions, and other technology to provide services to clients, some of whom they may never meet in person, said Reamer, whose research and teaching have also focused on mental health, health care, criminal justice and public welfare.

“The advent of this technology has produced a wide range of ethical challenges related to social workers’ application of traditional social work ethics concepts related to client informed consent; client privacy and confidentiality; boundaries and dual relationships; conflicts of interest; practitioner competence; documentation; and collegial relationships,” Reamer said.

Sign reads 'Session Is Full'This year’s conference also will feature keynote speakers Brené Brown, a best-selling author, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, scholar, and columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine; Robert Reich, a secretary of labor in President Bill Clinton’s administration and Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkley; and Steve Pemberton, an author and chief diversity officer and divisional vice president at Walgreens.

Reamer said he is eager to participate in the conference.

“During my career I have learned over and over again that we do our best work when we take the time to connect and consult with earnest, thoughtful colleagues to discuss and reflect on the daunting challenges we face,” he said. “The NASW national conference offers a vitally important opportunity for social workers to do just that. I always depart feeling inspired and privileged to be part of such a noble profession.”

Additional conference highlights include:

  • A plenary session on “The Integration of Health and Behavioral Health: Are We Ready to Walk the Talk?” by Linda Rosenberg, CEO and president of the National Council for Behavioral Health; Enola Proctor, director of the Center for Mental Health Services Research at Washington University in St. Louis; and Paolo del Velcchio, director of the Center for Mental Health Services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • More than 100 breakout sessions and the opportunity to earn up to 25 continuing education credits.
  • A special evening reception honoring NASW and NASW Foundation National Awards recipients.
  • A social work film festival, spotlighting films important to the profession.