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Social workers, ethical behavior, and personal relationships

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What are your views about forming social relationships with clients during the time they are working with you in your professional setting? What are your views about forming social relationships with former clients after they worked with you in your professional setting? Does your specific professional code of ethics speak to these types of scenarios?

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A social and or personal relationship with an existing client is never acceptable or permissible. In a social work relationship with a client it is extremely important to maintain objectivity and avoid perceived or potential conflicts of interest. A social worker's code of ethics (see below) and the codes of ethics within the work setting prohibit fraternizing with clients. The confidentiality of the working relationship is of utmost importance in maintaining a trusting relationship.

In situations where you may run into a client out and about in the community, it is important to remain neutral unless the client speaks to you. In this situation I would not acknowledge I knew the person unless the client engaged in eye contact or spoke first. In encounters outside of the office, confidentiality is of utmost importance and must be guarded jealously, for your professional reputation and for the protections of the client's rights.

Where it gets fuzzy is with social relationships when the client/professional relationship ends. You must ask yourself: "How will others perceive or think about the friendship?" If a friend of your previous client is a friend or community member, will he or she feel confident working with ...

Solution Summary

This solution is comprised of a detailed discussion of the ethics of fraternizing with current and past clients on the part of the social worker or any human service worker where confidentiality is at the core of the working partnership. This solution contains over 750 words of text inclusive of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) 1.06 section of NASW's Code of Ethics regarding conflict of interest in the client/worker relationship.

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