Ethics for helping professionals: Teaching a framework that supports collaborative ethical decision-making

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Downloads before May 2022



Social work professionals are often employed in interdisciplinary settings with nursing, psychology, medical, and psychiatric professionals. All of these professions have commonality in their codes of ethics such as the primary principle that we work for the client or patient’s benefit. However, we also know that these same codes do not specifically address ethical dilemmas and their resolution (ACA, 2014, ANA, 2011, AMA/ APA, 2013, AMA,2001, APA, 2010, NASW, 2015). There are numerous decision making models that can be used as a step-by-step process in deciding what to do when confronted by a dilemma (Congress, 1996; Strom-Gottfried, 2007). All of these tools are helpful, but challenges in the process of determining what to do remain.

This workshop provides a new model for teaching ethics and ethical decision-making in social work education. It is a change from using a values perspective as the starting point in ethical decision making to a perspective in which we consider harms all helping professionals should strive to avoid (Bryan, Sanders, & Kaplan, 2015). We suggest that focus upon what actions one should avoid, what one ought not do, can finally provide the conceptual and analytic clarity needed to address moral problems and foster a more meaningful collaborative approach with other disciplines in working through these problems.

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