What is the NASW Code of Ethics for social workers, and their ethical responsibilities to broader society?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics is designed to give social workers a guide for their everyday interaction with clients and the general public.  You can see the entire code in its entirety in my link below, where it says “code” and here.  So I will not copy and paste the entire thing here, if that is what you were originally asking for.  Instead, I have adapted your question to ask what the code is for.


Every profession has a code of ethics. This code is intended to guide professionals as they go about their everyday lives.  Sometimes you encounter a situation beyond your ordinary training.  In this case, a code can be helpful.  For example, under the category of informed consent, the code reminds social workers that they need to use clear and understandable language to inform clients about “risks related to the services.”  You can think of many situations where this might be the case.  For example, imagine that the very presence of having a social worker can cause a risk to a client.  It might cause gossip in the neighborhood, trouble in the family, or let the employer know that the employee has a situation going on.  This is one of the reasons why it is important to not sugar-coat things, but let clients know that there are risks to seeing a social worker.

Another example is in conflict of interest.  This means that you should not have a client when you also have an interest somewhere else.  This is a conflict of interest.  You can’t have a client who is related to one of your other clients, for example, because you can’t be completely impartial to either one.  This is where the conflict comes from.  You have to be completely for one or the other.