On tuesday morning, I participated in a role play in my early morning class, The Practice of Generalist Social Work. The class role played to help practice certain ethical dilemmas that may occur during our social work career. Not only did these role plays concentrate on ethical dilemmas but it focused on the difference between personal and professional values. My role play situation also looked at the boundaries that a social worker must put up in their professional role with both clients and co- workers.
And it focused on the ethical issues and moral dilemmas surrounding confidentiality and the problems a social ork may face regarding confidentiality with a client. Role playing is a very useful way to prepare for future situations, contemplate the correct reaction and learn to resolve any issue that may arise during a social work career. The situation of my role play during class was that a young boy had started to question his sexual orientation. This boy, who my group named John, was brought to the school social worker by his mother, who was played by me.
The school social worker talked to John in a private session, discussing his sexuality and how he is feeling about these new realizations. After the private ession with John, his mother (me) asked that the information John gave stayed confidential as she did not want anyone to know her son was possibly gay. The social worker assured the mother that the information would not leave this room. By doing this the social worker was creating a bond of trust between herself and her clients.
This is very important because a client will not be their authentic selves with someone they can not trust, or that they think is telling the community about their private personal problems. The privacy that a social worker keeps is called confidentiality and it is defined by Kathleen Millstein as “ the regulation, both legal and ethical, that protects the clients rights of privacy”( Millstein, 2000,p. 270). Millstein also goes on to confirm that confidentiality creates boundaries between clients and their social worker.
By doing so the client knows that the social worker will not give out any of their information to anyone not in their agency (Millstein, 2000). The next part of the role play involved John getting into a fight with a fellow student, the principal possibly concerned that John is acting out went to his social worker and demanded that she supply information from John’s session. A clear violation of the confidentiality regulations that social workers have to legally and ethically prescribed too.
The social worker in the role play than calmly explained that she could not give out John’s information without written or verbal consent from John’s mother. Because any information she gave out would have to be given out responsibly, and with the best interest of the client, and the client needs to understand and give consent that is within legal mandates (Millstein, 2000). As resolution the school social worker offered to set up a meeting with both John and his other to see why John was acting out, and ask permission from his mother for the principal to be informed of John’s session or possibly join a session.
The social worker will see what the mother feels best about and go from there without breaking confidentiality beforehand. The route lets the social worker keeps her from losing the trust bond with her client, and from giving out information illegally while still trying to compromise with the principal. I connected with this role play personally as a women who identifies as a lesbian, and has experienced the confusion of exual orientation and the hardships of the coming out process.
And I say process because it is truly never ending, John may have come out to his mother and his social worker but that is just the tip of the iceberg, John will constantly face the risk of not being accepted by his peers, teachers, and family. There will be anxiety that he will surely face when coming out to someone, just as I am anxious coming out to the reader of this paper. All of these factors are important to realize when determining to give the principal the information about John that he desires.
The social worker does not know how the principal feels about different sexual orientations. If he was to get this information about John and react in a homophobic way, John could be traumatized for a very long time. And John would never trust his social worker again. These are some of the personal values that my role play situation brought up for me. However, the role play situation brought up social work values from the Code of Ethics that had to be taken into consideration by the school social worker.
Using the Final Proposal for New IFSW Ethical Document 2004 in Chapter two of The Practice of Generalist Social Work, it is seen that a responsibility of a social worker is to challenge negative discrimination, this includes discrimination on basis of sexual orientation (Birkenmaier, 2014). If in the role play, the school social worker had decided that because the principal was part of her agency she could give him John’s information without consent from John’s mother than the social worker would need to evaluate the principals reaction before allowing him to speak to John.
If he felt that his sexual orientation was wrong or sinful, the social worker has a duty to advocate for John and challenge the principals negative iews. The social worker also has the responsibility of recognizing this diversity and trying to get her co-worker, the principal, to accept this diversity (Birkenmaier, 2014). The Code of Ethics can be very limiting as Chapter 2 by Birkenmaier explains, ” the code is often difficult to apply because it offers general statements, can be difficult to interpret, and may offer unrealistic guidance given a social worker’s situation” (Birkenmaier, 2014, p. 4).
Meaning that there is some leeway given to social workers when referencing the Code of Ethics for help with a situation, social workers often ave to take risks and get creative but this can create challenges to ethical codes (Birkenmaier, 2014, p. 44). Social workers must sometimes take risks because there is not always just one answer to a ethical issue, there can be many ways to go about something and social workers need to find the most helpful way for their client.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed role playing while it felt silly in the moment it was really useful seeing all the different situations that could arise. One other role play that really stuck out in my mind other than my own was a group who had a client that tried to hug their social worker. This particular situation stuck out to me because this happened at my field placement. During a case conference meeting, one social worker was asked by a client that she did not know well and felt was manipulative, for a hug.
The social worker at my field internship did exactly what the role players did in class, she backed up from the client and asked her, why she needed a hug. She also went on to ask how this woman was feeling in the moment, and if she always felt the need to hug. The social worker at my field placement than distinguished boundaries with her client by telling her that t is agency policy to not have physical contact like hugs, and instead shook her hand.
This role play helped solidify that the reason we have these ethics are for the safety of our clients and ourselves. For example, during my role play the school social worker had to set boundaries with the principal for John’s safety. But, for the other group where the social worker did not want a hug, the social worker was setting up boundaries with her clients for her own safety. It is important to not let personal values muddle your ethical and legal responsibilities as a social worker.