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Professional boundaries: An analysis of violations by social workers

Published on Oct 1, 1999in Families in society-The journal of contemporary social services
· DOI :10.1606/1044-3894.1473
Kimberly Strom-Gottfried8
Estimated H-index: 8
(UNC: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Abstract
The violation of professional boundaries represents the most troubling of ethics transgressions. Encompassing sexual activities, dual relationships, and poor clinical practices, this area includes not only clearly illegal or unethical behaviors, but also actions that may be unwise only in the context in which they occurred. This article presents the findings of a recent study that examined ethics complaints against social workers and revealed that 56.1% of the cases in which there were violations involved some form of boundary infraction. The body of literature on boundary violations is examined in light of these findings and recommendations are offered for enhancing practitioner education, supervision, and self-awareness to reduce the incidence of these ethics breaches.
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Professional standards of care establish the accepted or normative behavioral conduct of social workers in practice (NASW, 1993; National Association of Black Social Workers, 1980). According to Reamer (1995), "professionals are required to perform in a manner consistent with the 'standard of care' in the profession" (p. 595). Such standards are presumed to guide the day-to-day practice of social work as well as help practitioners when confronted with ethical dilemmas (Loewenberg & Dolgoff, 1988...
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