Continuing Education & Resources for Mental Health Professionals

Ethical Information

Selected Ethical Standards About Confidentiality:
Social Workers (from NASW Code of Ethics)

1. Key Standard
    1.07 (c): Social workers should protect the confidentiality of all information obtained in the course of professional service . . .
  2. Clarification, Amplification, and Application Standards
    A. Expanding on the Confidentiality Rule
      1.07 (a) – Solicit only information essential to providing services…
1.07 (c) – Disclose least amount necessary to achieve the desired purpose.
    B. Applying the Confidentiality Rule in Other Specific Circumstances
      1.07 (f) – With families, couples, or groups, seek agreement about each individual’s right to confidentiality and obligation to preserve confidentiality of information shared by others.
1.07 (h) – Disclose confidential information to third party payers only with client authorization
1.07 (i) – Discuss confidential information only if privacy can be ensured.
1.07 (k) – Protect client confidentiality when responding to requests from members of the media.
107 (l) – Protect confidentiality of records, written or electronic. Store securely and not make available to others who are not authorized to have access.
1.07 (m) – Ensure confidentiality of information in electronic transmissions.
1.07 (n) – Transfer and dispose of records in way that protects confidentiality 1.07 (o) – Plan for confidentiality in event of termination of practice or death.
1.07 (p) – Disclose no identifying information without client consent when teaching or training.
1.07 (q) – Disclose no identifying information without client consent when obtaining consultation.
1.07 (r) – Protect confidentiality of deceased clients, consistent with these standards.
2.02 – Respect the confidentiality of information shared by colleagues
5.02 (l) – Respect anonymity and confidentiality of research participants
    C. Informing Clients/Consultees Ab Disclosures & Limits of Confidentiality
      1.07 (d) – Inform clients about disclosure of confidential information, and potential consequences
1.07 (e) – Inform clients and other interested parties about limits of confidentiality
1.07 (g) – Inform of any agency or organizational policy affecting disclosures among parties  
    D. Responding to Conflicts Between Ethical Duties and Other Duties
      1.07 (j) – Protect confidentiality during legel proceedings to the extent permitted by law. When a court orders disclosure without client’s consent and this would cause harm to the client, request that the court withdraw the order or limit it as narrowly as possible.
  3. Exceptions to the Key Standard
    1.07 (b): ” Social workers may disclose confidential information when appropriate with valid consent from a client or a person legally authorized to consent on behalf of a client. . . .” (c): ” Social workers should protect the confidentiality of all information obtained in the course of professional service except for compelling professional r4easons. The general expectation that social workers will keep information confidential does not apply when disclosure is necessary to prevent serious, forseeable, and imminent harm to a client or other identifiable person.”


* Selected Ethical Standards related to confidentiality
are here arranged in categories suggested by Knapp & VandeCreek (2006).
Ethical Standards are from National Association of Social Workers (2008) Code of Ethics.

Familiarity with these selected standards is not a substitute for knowing
all of the sections of your Ethics Code.

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