Ethics in Therapy: Confidentiality & Boundaries in Therapy

There are many ethical principles and standards which are important in the field of social work, specifically relating to the therapeutic process regarding the clinician and client.

 

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The Code of Ethics begins by articulating social work’s mission:

…to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. (Code of Ethics, p. 1)

This mission grounds the core values of social work:

  1. Service: helping people in need and addressing social problems,
  2. social justice: challenging social injustice,
  3. dignity and worth of the person: respecting every person,
  4. importance of human relationships: recognizing the central importance of relationships to a person’s well being and as a vehicle of change,
  5. integrity: behaving in a trustworthy manner and
  6. competence: practicing within one’s area of competence and continually developing and enhancing one’s professional expertise.

There are ethical standards that are significant:

  • Conflict of Interest: Social workers should be alert to and avoid conflicts of interest that interfere with the exercise of professional discretion and impartial judgment. Social workers should inform clients when a real or potential conflict of interest arises and take reasonable steps to resolve the issue in a manner that makes the clients’ interests primary and protects clients’ interests to the greatest extent possible. In some cases, protecting clients’ interests may require termination of the professional relationship with proper referral of the client.
  • Privacy and Confidentiality: Social workers should respect clients’ right to privacy. Social workers should not solicit private information from or about clients except for compelling professional reasons. Once private information is shared, standards of confidentiality apply.Social workers may disclose confidential information when appropriate with valid consent from a client or a person legally authorized to consent on behalf of a client.Social workers should inform clients, to the extent possible, about the disclosure of confidential information and the potential consequences, when feasible before the disclosure is made.

Social workers should discuss with clients and other interested parties the nature of confidentiality and                   limitations of clients’ right to confidentiality.

It is important for social workers to ensure that they are adhering to ethical standards regarding confidentiality and boundaries in order to maintain a protected and do no harm to client and this process.

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