Safety in Social Work Practice – Counseling Related Questions and Answers

Risks to confidentiality when conducting on-line counseling

In the contemporary world, an increasing number of therapists are now turning to the online world to offer counseling or therapy. Several arguments have been raised concerning the effectiveness of on-line counseling as far as protection of client’s privacy and confidentiality is concerned. There is one major risk to confidentiality when conducting online counseling. The counselor or client may accidentally send private e-mail to the wrong recipient (Childress, 2000). Online counseling largely involves exchanging e-mail messages between the client and the therapist. A person may reply to someone else in what was meant to be a private e-mail, but the information ends up in the hands of millions of subscribers who ultimately read the message. This may pose a very serious risk to confidentiality, and it is important for both the client to take appropriate actions to safeguard their interactions. The client and the therapist need to double-check their recipient list before sending an e-mail just to ensure that it is being sent to the right person (Childress, 2000).

Risks To The Counselor When Conducting On-Line Counseling

The counselor, like the client, is exposed to certain risks when conducting online counseling. The counselor’s contact information may intentionally or unintentionally be passed to others by the client. People around the client’s immediate environment may have unauthorized access to the client’s e-mail or computer either at home or at the place of work (Childress, 2000). This way, the client’s personal information may be passed to the wrong people. The client can prevent transfer of counselor’ details to others by setting their computers to only accept passwords that are known to them. In addition, the counselor and the client need to emphasize on the importance of confidentiality and data security before entering into a therapeutic relationship (Childress, 2000).

How to Respond To a Client Who Wants To “Friend” You on a Social Media Website

The main goal of social work practice is to assist clients solve their problems in order to lead positive lives. A useful therapeutic relationship can only be built if both the client and the counselor do away with barriers that may interfere with the therapeutic relationship. For instance, the counselor should avoid having sexual relationships with clients, their relatives, or family members. According to the NASW Code of Ethics, under no circumstances should a social worker engage in a sexual activity or contact with his or her current client (NASW Delegate Assembly, 1999). According to the NASW Delegate Assembly (1999), social workers should avoid engaging in a sexual relationship with their clients especially if there is high possibility for a conflict of interest. Suppose the counselor meets a client who wants to ‘friend’ him or her on a social media website, the counselor should let the client understand that it is ethically wrong to be in an intimate friendship with a client at all costs (NASW Delegate Assembly, 1999).

How To Handle An Agitated Client

Agitation is a behavior that requires an immediate intervention when in a counseling relationship. When dealing with an agitated client, the counselor need to take a three-step approach that involves; verbally engaging the client, establishment of a collaborative relationship, and de-escalating the client from the agitated state (Richmond et al., 2012). According to Richmond et al. (2012), verbal de-escalation is of great significance in engaging an agitated client and an effective way of making him or her respond positively to treatment. According to the NASW Code of Ethics, a social worker should avoid derogatory language in either verbal or written communications to the client (NASW Delegate Assembly, 1999). The counselor must take care to use respectful and accurate language when communicating with the client at all times. Additionally, the social worker should avoid terminating his or her relationship with the client due to the influence of social factors (NASW Delegate Assembly, 1999).

With reference to the ethical requirements of the NASW Code of Ethics, a counselor who comes across an agitated client and who feels that he or she may be verbally assaulted should try to help the client manage his emotions and to regain control of behavior (NASW Delegate Assembly, 1999). In addition, the counselor should not use restraint or any other method that may cause physical or emotional harm to the client, and avoid using language that may escalate the agitation. The counselor should also mind about the safety of others by ensuring that everyone else in the area is safe and secure (Richmond et al., 2012).

How To Protect Yourself And Clients In The Case Of A Fire, Earthquake, Or Other Emergency Situation That Might Occur While You Are In Session

A social worker should take appropriate steps to protect self and clients from earthquake, fire, or any other emergency situation that may occur while in session. It is the responsibility of the social worker to prepare his or her clients to respond to emergency before it occurs. Establishment of an emergency action plan can help the counselor protect self and the clients from natural disasters that may occur (United States Department of Labor, 2015). In the plan, the counselor must keep his or her clients informed of the most preferred methods of reporting any form of emergency, including fire and earthquakes. In addition, there should be an evacuation procedure of policy that is well known to the counselor and his or her client. Moreover, there should be well marked emergency escape signs such as workplace maps, floor plans, and safe areas. Clients must be made to understand names, titles, telephone numbers of individuals, and departments that should be contacted in case of an emergency. Finally, the client must be properly informed about the medical and rescue teams on duty who may assist victims of natural disasters (United States Department of Labor, 2015).

How To Assess And Assist A Client Who Verbalizes Suicidal And/Or Homicidal Ideation

If a client verbalizes suicidal and/or homicidal ideation during your meeting, the counselor should take appropriate steps to assess the situation and provide the best form of intervention for the client. First, the counselor should take his or her time to discuss and analyze the suicidal behaviors that have been communicated by the client. This involves giving the client enough time to explain factors that might have contributed to the suicidal feelings. Second, the client should employ his or her counseling skills to challenge the attitudes and personal beliefs of the client about suicide. The counselor must remember to inform the client that suicide is not actually the best solution to his problem (Samra, 2007).

Third, the counselor should involve close friends and family members of the client in understanding the current situation in details. Friends and family members may provide information that may be useful in identification of the best form of intervention or treatment. Fourth, the counselor should use the information gathered to develop the most appropriate intervention for the client and to assist the client in seeking safety (Samra, 2007). According to the NASW Code of Ethics, social workers should only provide services to clients after establishing a professional relationship through an informed consent. The counselor must therefore obtain an informed consent before making an attempt of assisting a client who has verbalized suicidal or homicidal ideation (NASW Delegate Assembly, 1999).

How To Handle A Client Who Is Verbally, Emotionally, Physically, Or Sexually Abused

The NASW Code of Ethics states that the primary responsibility of a social worker should be to promote the well-being of his or her client (NASW Delegate Assembly, 1999). In addition, the code emphasizes that social workers should promote and protect the rights of their clients, and should always remember to assist their clients to identify and clarify goals. If the counselor suspects that a client is being verbally, sexually, emotionally, or physically abused, he or she should report to the relevant body according to the California State laws. According to the protective services laws of California, any person who has observed or has knowledge of an incident that reasonably appears to be any form or abuse as defined in Section 15610.63 of the Welfare and Institutions Code shall report the incident either immediately through phone or in a written report within two days (Stiegel and Klem, 2007). Reports should be made to the local law enforcement agency, the State Department of Health Services, the State Department of Social Services, or the California Department of Aging in case of a suspected abuse of elderly persons (Stiegel and Klem, 2007).

Safety Factors  To Consider When Doing A Home Visit

If the counselor was to conduct a home-based visit or to drive with the clients, the safety factors that are important to consider include privacy, environmental security, and problems that may occur as a result of a road accident. The counselor must avoid engaging in any form of sexual contact with the client as stated in the NASW Code of Ethics (NASW Delegate Assembly, 1999). In addition, the counselor must be prepared to respond to any form of insecurity that may originate from the immediate environment, and remember to drive safely to prevent road accidents (Ganley and Hobart, 2010).

Specific Policies (Local, State, Federal)  To Be Aware Of Prior To Engaging With Clients

Prior to engaging with a client, the counselor needs to be aware of specific policies as per the California state (National Association of Social Work Practice). The counselor must be aware of the specifications stated in the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter. According to the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter, a counselor will be fully liable to his or her negligent conduct to the client, particularly if he or she gives a recommendation that is detrimental to the client. Additionally, the counselor will be held directly liable for recommending an intervention that is too complex for the client to implement. Apart from these policies, before engaging with a client in California, the social worker must be ready to prevent boundary violations that may prevent effectiveness of the therapeutic relationship.

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