NASW Code of Ethics Revisions Part 1

By Heidi Tobe on August 2, 2021

The NASW recently published revisions to the social work code of ethics. While minor in terms of how this will impact the exam (more on that later), these revisions are crucial to our field. These changes to the code of ethics fall into two main categories: self-care and cultural competency. This week’s blog discusses the updates regarding self-care, and our upcoming blog will discuss updates regarding cultural competency. 

NASW Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics and Self-Care

I am SO glad to see self-care added to the code of ethics. Self-care mutually benefits both clinicians and their clients by promoting personal and professional well-being. Our profession is one with high levels of stress, making the importance of self-care critical. This addition to the code of ethics recognizes the importance of this personally and professionally and makes self-care the standard for best practice. It stresses the importance of self-care in our profession and lays a foundation for upholding our commitment to engaging in ethical practice. All the way from social work educational institutions to social work organizations and agencies, we as social workers are being called to promote policies and practices to support social workers’ self-care. It’s exciting to think about the ways this could impact everything from our agencies to graduate school programs.

It is important to highlight the heart behind this particular change to the code of ethics. The NASW uses very specific language here; this is about encouragement, not force. What does this mean? These standards are about encouraging all social workers to engage in self-care practices, but is not about trying to force. It’s not about being punitive or punishing those who struggle to engage in this practice.

Professional Self-Care

Professional self-care is about preventing professional impairment (and subsequent harm to clients) and promoting competence, compassion, and ethical practices. A lack of self-care can lead to everything from negative perceptions of the field, to a decrease in work productivity, to professional negligence or ethical infractions. Professional self-care can be promoted through practices such as professional development, engaging in reflective practice, workload management, time management, and more.

Personal Self-Care

The goal here is to prevent and treat illness and to promote wellness and wellbeing. Social workers should engage in practices promoting personal well-being. These could include everything from exercising, to meditating and engaging in personal mindfulness practices, to engaging in hobbies, to pursuing personal health, to maintaining boundaries, and so much more.

How does this impact the exam?

Good news: these changes (while incredibly important to the profession) are unlikely to impact the exam. Here’s why: cultural competence and self-care are already included on the exams (and therefore in TDCs programs as well!). The exam is more all-encompassing than just the code of ethics. The exam content outlines already include both self-care and cultural competency. 

ASWB Masters and Clinical Exam Preparation 

One of the many wonderful things about TDC’s exam prep programs is that they thoroughly and extensively review the code of ethics. Many customers report becoming more ethical practitioners after going through their LMSW or LCSW courses. TDC’s ethics content include over a hundred ethical practice questions, audio lectures, and quizzes. Beyond our excellent ethics content, we have expert coaches available to answer any questions that come up as you’re studying. We’ve helped THOUSANDS of social workers pass their LMSW and LCSW exams and we’re ready to help you PASS with CONFIDENCE this year!


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