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NASW Code of Ethics: Social Workers and Ethical Dilemmas Essay

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Updated: Jan 29th, 2022

In every profession, there is a code of ethics for workers to follow. Social workers have their code of professional conduct and standards that define how they behave. However, in our daily practice as social workers, we face a lot of issues, and some are confusing. Such issues known as ethical dilemmas, offer us more than one option to choose from, and for most of us, the moment is trying. An ethical dilemma is a state of mental conflict through which choosing one moral imperative will result in going against another. In my practice as a female social worker, I hold a position of a mental health therapist where I do group therapy for patients between the ages of eighteen and seventy. I major in teaching independent living skills, anger management, relaxation techniques and self-control.

Working in a mental facility is challenging. For example, a client may want to act on their own and make decisions important in their lives. Some time ago, I was dealing with a female client who at the time was aged forty. She got admitted for rehabilitation because she was suffering from a personality disorder that is a condition that makes a person have extreme and inflexible personality traits that differ from normal cultural expectations.

At some point, she approached me and explained that she stresses herself about the personality disorder. It was seasonal but she felt that it was a permanent part of her life. Thus, she said that she had decided to quit the facility and once out, she will end her life. I got worried and I had to act quickly to save her life. An ethical dilemma came up because my patient makes decisions about her life, and that included ending her relationship with our mental health facility. On the other hand, if our organization agreed to let her leave, she would end her life. However, my worry was strictly professional because in social work, enhancing lives is a key operational procedure.

After getting the information, I approached my supervisor and explained the situation to him. He listened with great interest and observed that holding her in the facility for a little longer than earlier planned would help to change her mind and make her see the goodness that life has to offer. As part of my action, I accessed her files and changed the date that she was to leave the facility by adding a month to it. Secondly, I dedicated a private session to the patient that was not part of the official intervention. Though my dedication was personal, it was necessary to monitor her response to intervention and manage her personality trait disorder.

Personalizing a relationship with a client is not allowed in the NASW code of ethics because of professional boundaries. Third, I made our relationship more than a client-patient relationship to save the situation even though it was against codes of practice.

For social workers, NASW Codes of ethics apply in every step of their actions. My actions in an ethical dilemma related to several codes in my professional code of conduct. According to the privacy and confidentiality clause in the NASW codes of ethics, “a social worker should respect private information of clients and not to ask about personal life” (NASW, 1999, p. 9). However, a clause in the same code of ethics states that a social worker can expose information that is private if it is in the interest of the person at stake (NASW, 1999).

Self-determination forms a code of ethics in the NASW Codes of ethics and according to the code; social workers respect the rights of clients in self-determination and engaging in personal decisions is not allowed (NASW, 1999). However, a social worker must tell a client about their rights, what is important for them and what is not.

Ethical guidelines in social work exist to help workers deal with ethical dilemmas. Before a worker acts, it is important to think about the situation and what it will cause. As for my actions, I realized that I did not act wrongly. Among the reasons that made me believe so is my intention to respond to her situation. In my head, I knew that my work is to help clients so that they get out of the facility in a better way than when admitted. In hindsight, I will take the same actions that I took because I love and respect my profession. Caring for our clients is the main responsibility and it is not allowed to see the client suffering.

After an extended stay at the facility, the personality disorder was manageable and stable and in a chat with the patient, she told how happy she was to get out and live a good and normal life. I was happy with the decision because she did not know that I had acted on the information she had given me before. As a result, I believed that I had helped her a lot, and my supervisor congratulated me for the extra effort I had put in by observing professional codes of ethics. However, I had acted professionally because it was in the interest of the client and for her wellbeing.

Reference

National Association of Social Workers [NASW]. (1999). . Western Michigan University. Web.

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