Rethinking boundaries ethical dilemmas in the social worker client relationship

consecutively engage in more than one relationship with clients is called a: a. with a client, social workers should consider which of the following: a. . dilemma , it does provide a useful framework for defining acceptable and As reviewed earlier, important ethical expectations for social workers include demonstrating. Department of Health () Social Work Careers. Dietz, C. and Thompson, J. () 'Rethinking boundaries: Ethical dilemmas in the social worker-client. of the patriarchal “distance model” of social worker-client relationships sive relationships as boundary violations rather than understanding them as acts of.

Historically within the Western context, social work's theoretical basis has been understood as being on a continuum. Psycho-dynamic perspectives located at the individual end of the theoretical continuum have been pivotal in defining social work relationships as primarily therapeutic in nature Sudbery, In contrast, at the collective end of the continuum, the influence of Marxist sociology has led some theorists to maintain that the practice of social work supports capitalism by categorising people and acting as a means of social control Howe, ; Payne, Further developments in humanistic psychology and structuralism have led to the introduction of client-centred approaches Rogers, and the systems approach to social work represents an attempt to combine these different perspectives Petr, More recently, social work theorists have become sensitive to the power imbalances and potential for discrimination and disempowerment in social work relationships that develop primarily as a result of trauma or adversity Fook, The emergence of post-structural approaches to social work has led to a more critical appraisal of the complex nature of relationships with people who are oppressed or marginalised and has contributed to a concerted effort to challenge reductionist understandings of professional relationships to better cope with the diversity and uniqueness of people's individual circumstances Ruch, Contemporary therapeutic approaches that draw on humanistic, post-structural and critical theoretical paradigms advocate transparency and the deconstruction of power relations Healy, In addition, post-structural and feminist theorists have challenged the various epistemological assumptions of social work Mandell, The new approaches that have arisen from this critique, such as narrative therapy, seek to avoid pre-judgement by giving greater voice to marginalised clients through collaborative working.

Social workers are now required to be more reflective and accountable in their relations with clients. Advocates of narrative therapy encourage collaboration with clients and maintain that the traditional notion of professional boundaries disempowers clients Bird, Social workers are often proponents of specific models, claiming that they are highly effective and closely compatible with the aims of social work.

However, empirical research has shown little variation in the effectiveness of the array of approaches. It is the quality of relationship between the social worker and the client rather than the specific model of practice that has been proven to be a strong predictor of outcomes Coady, ; Howe, Research conducted by Lee and Ayonfor example, shows that the quality of the relationship between the social worker and the client is significantly related to better outcomes in child-protection cases, regardless of the model of intervention employed.

In attempting to reconceptualise the boundaries of professional social work practice, there are clearly tensions operating that need to be thoughtfully responded to.

On the one hand, it has been suggested that the traditional representation of professional boundaries reinforces power imbalances and tends to undervalue the personal exchange required to engage with clients meaningfully Bird, ; O'Leary, As a response, advocates of traditional social work relationships assert that boundaries that separate professionals from their clients guard against professional misconduct and prevent unhealthy dependence or close emotional attachment Reamer, In developing this new model that optimises the boundaries of social work relationships, we are not advocating for the uncritical adoption of a post-structural interpretation of professional boundaries in social work.

Gould and other scholars have warned of the dangers of Foucauldian approaches to social work that would effectively eliminate any claim of expertise. To avoid falling into such traps, our reconceptualisation of professional boundaries takes into account the broad spectrum of contemporary theoretical influences.

At the same time, it recognises, embraces and works with the ethical complexity inherent in social work practice.

Client Relationships and Ethical Boundaries for Social Workers in Child Welfare -

Setting the ethical parameters of the social work relationship Social work aims to encourage self-determination and promote social justice and the relationship between the social worker and the client is the starting point for realising these goals.

These exchanges are marked by the complex interaction of personal and broader environmental factors. Inevitably, however, ethical questions arise in the social work relationship when moral and political imperatives are in conflict with the individual client's well-being. Cultural differences, leading to disparities in moral and political outlooks, further complicate the relationship. The traditional notions of boundaries separating clients from professionals do not encompass the complexities of the political and moral practice that social work encompasses, nor do they take account of the cultural diversity and the mutuality in social work relationships.

Alexander and Charles argue that the difficulty of balancing the need to relate to clients and the ideals of professional behaviour can make the position of social worker untenable when placed within the traditional notion of professional boundaries.

Ethical Dilemmas - How to respond to them

Social work's mission extends well beyond clinical domains and into political and social spheres, all within the confines of the social worker—client relationship.

Its focus must encompass both the individual therapeutic purpose and the collective consciousness to bring about both individual well-being and social change. In this way, issues arising from individual intervention may see a client and social worker working together within the community to protest and develop community action. For example, in Lebanon, young people in Palestinian refugee camps raised a concern about poor lighting with a social worker.

This led to the young people creating a micro project that resulted in the installation of security lighting. In this case, it is possible that the client becomes the main actor.

Client Relationships and Ethical Boundaries for Social Workers in Child Welfare

In a similar vein, developments in personalisation policy in adult social care in the UK are shifting the process of decision making and creating greater client autonomy in their relationship with social workers and care workers Leece and Peace, Given this changing practice landscape and the recognised shortcomings of traditional notions of professional boundaries, conceptualising boundaries in social work contexts that are conducive to these emergent professional purposes is a timely and important undertaking.

Unsurprisingly, boundary issues, in a variety of international contexts, are often difficult to negotiate. For example, cultural practices such as sharing tea or meals with clients may play an important role in developing the social worker—client relationship. However, accepting the offer of an alcoholic drink may violate certain ethical assumptions.

In Hong Kong, senior citizens in elderly homes often give red envelopes of money to young front line social workers in Chinese New Year because they regard social workers as friends of the younger generation. The social workers usually accept this money but inform the management and the clients that the money will be put into the fund for the seniors' leisure activities. Sometimes, it seems impossible to maintain a strictly professional separation from clients and avoid any social and personal exchanges.

Rural social work, in both developed and developing nation contexts, presents challenges to traditional notions of professional boundaries in social work practice. Social workers in rural communities are often also involved in other social activities and community organisations Pugh, These situations demand careful consideration to determine what constitutes an appropriate professional stance.

To complicate matters further, consideration must be given to variables such as gender, class, culture and sexuality that shape the complex dynamic of the social work relationship. There are inherent issues of power and accountability when, for example, male social workers counsel women who have experienced male violence or white social workers advocate the ethnic minorities rights of black clients.

Many clients do not voluntarily enter into their relationship with a social worker, but have been legally obliged to participate. Regardless of whether the relationship is voluntary or involuntary, there is an essential criterion for a professional social work relationship: Reamer suggests a risk-management protocol to deal with such boundary issues. He posited a typology of five central themes in which boundary issues may arise: In addition, the clinical issues of managing dual relationships and management of transference and countertransference are factors that cannot be ignored in this discussion.

Workers in child welfare are often found in dual client relationships. Inside our respective roles and responsibilities, to move a client forward, we must engage a client in the process of change. This is an integral part of the client engagement strategy, which must be established in the early phase of the relationship. Unfortunately, many professionals in our field have difficulties in the area of client rapport building.

Throughout our profession, thousands of men and women work with vulnerable families and children. Many of our clients have been subjected to abuse, neglect, or other forms of violence or maltreatment. Some report stories of abandonment, domestic violence, emotional abuse, or other wrenching experiences.

Some even report having difficulty with intimacy as a result of their reported pain. Subsequently, instead of helping, the social worker may start the path of hurting the client while disclosing or sharing his or her own personal experiences. In child welfare, immediate supervisors must play a vital role in modeling, coaching, and engaging in frequent discussions with workers on topical issues of client engagement, rapport-building, and assurance of proper boundaries in the worker and client relationship.

Social work schools, child welfare training, and other continuing education programs also have a responsibility in providing education and information on the management of client relationships and examination of ongoing ethical issues. In some instances, it may be a labor relations matter, or a training or coaching issue between the worker and supervisor. Why might a caseworker risk contamination of the client engagement process or actual working relationship? There is no definitive or even easy answer.

From others, it may be suggested there are always persons in any given profession who will violate the code of conduct rules and standards, despite any degree of training, supervision, or administrative oversight. As social workers, we have a responsibility to examine the issues of client relationships and ethical boundaries.

This conversation merits discussion among our peers and other related professionals. In the age of increased litigation and constituent complaints, it is not a topic to be ignored. The personal and corporate costs and liabilities associated with claims of unethical behaviors have long lasting impact to those in the profession and for those who are served.

Fortunately, ethics training for social workers must be taken in accordance with state licensure standards. This provides an opportunity to be mindful of our ethical obligations and boundaries in serving others throughout the field.