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Beyond the NASW Code of Ethics

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About the Course:

This course contains two articles.

Article 1 ( Beyond the NASW Code of Ethics – Part I )
The authors have acquired experience in, and opinions on, ethical decision making while serving on a (U.S.) National Association of Social Workers (NASW) peer consultation ethics call line. The authors agree with scholars who view all human perceptions and activities as shaped by values, with the concurrent need to become more self-conscious about the ethical dimension of our daily life and professional practice. It is argued that our social work code of ethics is a necessary but insufficient tool for ethical decision making. The Code of Ethics (National Association of Social Workers, 1996) is frequently used as a risk management tool, offering guidelines for practice which may or may not be compatible with the goals of social justice for which social work ideally stands. Additionally, the unique and unexpected ways ethical issues emerge in clinical practice work against attempts to apply the Code as a rule book. Distinctions between ethical, legal, and clinical issues are difficult, given that the two latter domains have inevitable ethical implications. The authors urge readers to supplement a model of purely rational, ethical decision making with their emotions and intuition as shaped by our culture and our profession. Ethical judgments are best made in small groups where members bring different perspectives and intuitions to the process while agreeing on basic humanistic values.

Article 2 ( Beyond the NASW Code of Ethics – Part II )
The authors, both social work educators, serve on an ethics call line committee that provides insights on how the provisions of the (United States) National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics (NASW, 1996) interface with the ethical dilemmas encountered by the social work community. In this paper, the authors highlight aspects of social work practice that they consider ethical, yet not easily accommodated by the provisions of the current Code. They also question the 1996 introduction of the concept of dual relationships into the Code and suggest that the Code adopt the less ambiguous term of boundary violations. Also recognized by the authors is the need for clear boundaries for the protection of clients against temptations that might arise in a fiduciary relationship, and for the legal protection of social workers. But, the authors argue, social work practitioners in certain settings, with particular populations, and in certain roles, inevitably face multiple relationships as an integral aspect of their work. The authors conclude that social work’s adoption of the psychoanalytic constrains of anonymity, neutrality, and abstinence has detoured the profession from its original double focus on individuals and their society.


Article I: Complexities of Ethical Decision Making in Social Work Practice

  1. The Values of Our Profession
  2. The Code of Ethics
  3. Drawing Distinctions
  4. A Challenge to Pure Reason
  5. Opportunities for Dialogue
  6. Beyond the Code of Ethics

Article II: Dual Relationships Revisited

  1. The Problem
  2. History of the Code of Ethics and the Introduction of Dual Relationships
  3. The Need for Clear Boundaries
  4. The Meaning of Dual Relationships
  5. Boundary Issues in Non-clinical Practice Settings
  6. Boundary Issues in Clinical Settings
  7. Consecutive Dual Relationships
  8. Philosophical Orientations: Feminist, Empowerment, and Postmodern Approaches to Practice
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations

This course is based on the reading-based online article, Beyond the NASW Code of Ethics created by Sophie Freud and Stefan Krug

Publication Date:

2002 /Vol. 83, No. 5/6

Course Material Authors

Course Material Authors authored the material only, and were not involved in creating this CE course. They are identified here for your own evaluation of the relevancy of the material this course is based on.

Sophie Freud
Professor Emerita
Stefan Krug
Associate Professor and Director of Doctoral Program Simmons College School of Social Work

Course Creator

Recommended For:

This course is recommended for social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other human services and behavioral health professionals who seek knowledge about ethics. It is appropriate for participants with intermediate to advanced levels of knowledge about the topic.

Course Objectives:

After taking this course, you should be able to:

  1. describe elements and practices that can complement and inform the use of the NASW Code of Ethics.
  2. describe some of the potential strengths and limitations of the NASW Code of Ethics.


Disclosure of Relevant Financial Relationships

Disclosure of Relevant Financial Relationships

CE Learning Systems, LLC is an independent provider of continuing medical education. CE Learning Systems, LLC has no proprietary or financial interest in medical or healthcare products over which the FDA (USA) or EMA (EU) has regulatory authority.

In accordance with our disclosure policies, CE Learning Systems, LLC is committed to ensuring balance, independence, objectivity, and scientific rigor for all accredited continuing education. These policies include assigning relevance to, and mitigating, all perceived or real conflicts of interest between any individual with control over the content and any ineligible company (commercial interest).

Any individual with control over accredited content, including planner, faculty, and reviewer, is required to globally disclose:

  1. Individual relationship(s) or lack thereof, and its nature, with any/all ineligible company, and
  2. any investigational, off-label, or non-FDA approved content or discussion

CE Learning Systems, LLC has reviewed these disclosures, assigned relevance based on the relationship and scope of content, and identified those with the potential to compromise the goals and educational integrity of the education. Relevant relationships, or lack thereof, are shared with the learner.

Education has been independently peer-reviewed to validate content, mitigate identified conflicts of interest, and ensure:

  1. All recommendations involving clinical medicine is based on evidence that is accepted within the medical profession as adequate justification for their indications and contraindications in the care of patients.
  2. All scientific research referred to, reported, or used in accredited continuing education in support or justification of a patient care recommendation conforms to the generally accepted standards of experimental design, data collection, and analysis.
  3. Content is appropriate, fair and balanced, unbiased, referenced, and non-promotional.

The planners have reported the following: There are no relevant disclosures.

Course Material Authors

The authors have disclosed any disclosures within the material.

Course Creator: Max Schwanekamp
There are no relevant disclosures.
Commercial support

There is no commercial support for this distance-learning course.

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Categorized in:

Course Number 100789
2 CE credit hours
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  • Reading-Based Online
Exam Fee $11.94
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