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Personal Integrity vs. Clients’ Life Choices

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 2182 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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In this paper you will learn about the required skills in social work that are needed in order to deal appropriately with clients who have different values or beliefs than oneself. There are codes and laws one must follow, and skills one must obtain in order to be beneficial to the client. This paper will inform you of the requirements, and it will point out a feature in the justice system that will make you question the liability of the governments’ choices when evaluating mental competence. Then it refocuses on the social workers goals when working with a client.

Personal Integrity vs. Clients’ Life Choices

Working in the human service field can be challenging if a client does not have the same values or beliefs as the worker. This can make it difficult for the worker and the client to form a bond. If the worker does not proceed as should, then a client could feel judged, unworthy, or even hopeless. That could result in little to no cooperation out of that client.  This type of situation would not be beneficial for the client, so a worker is expected to be ethical at all times. When personal beliefs and values differ from a client, workers need to know the best ways to handle the situation, so they can be beneficial to the client. According to Hugman & Carter, (2016), “In complex circumstances it is vital that social workers understand how to rethink values and ethics to ensure that their practices, and policies that shape practice, can meet these challenges” (As cited in Bent-Goodly, Oct 2017).

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In order for a social worker to handle a situation ethically, one must apply the standards of the NASW Code of Ethics (Kirst-Ashman, Hull, 2018,2015). “The core values that support the NASW Code of Ethics are service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. Each of these core values, connect back to specific ethical principles and ethical standards that anchor them in practice” (Bent-Goodly, Oct 2017).  Following this code of ethics a worker would; provide assistance in helping all clients achieve their maximum potential, pursue social justice for all their clients, show all clients they have value, encourage interpersonal interaction, effective communication, and collaboration, have integrity, and be competent. (Kirst-Ashman, Hull, 2018, 2015) “These core values are needed in the greater society, and the lens that social workers provide can help to shape policies, programs, and direct practices” (Bent-Goodly, Oct 2017).

Service of the individual should include being treated with respect and have the right to determine their decisions. Importance of human relationships would be working together and using positive communication skills. Integrity highlights the importance of truth and morality in each interaction. Competence is necessary for social workers to not only have good intentions, but also have the knowledge and skills to be able to execute what is required in practice (Bent-Goodly, Oct 2017).

Being a professional social worker requires the ability to build trusting relationships with clients and colleagues (Bent-Goodly, Oct 2017). A worker must be competent in order to become a good social worker, and this requires knowledge of the skills. There are nine competencies a worker must follow in order to be more beneficial to the client (Kirst-Ashman, Hull, 2018, 2015). Competency #1, demonstrate ethical and professional behavior. Competency #2, engage diversity and difference practice. Competency #3, advance human rights, and social, economic, and environmental, justice. Competency#4, engage in practice-informed research and research-informed practice. Competency #5, engage in policy practice. Competency #6, engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Competency #7, assess individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Competency #8, intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Lastly, competency #9, evaluate practice with individual, families, groups, organizations and communities (Kirst-Ashman, Hull, 2018, 2015).

By following the NASW code of ethics and learning the skills it takes to be a competent social worker, it will be easier to deal with clients of cultural diversity. There are also some individual cultural competence skill areas, a worker can learn about in order to become more culturally diverse. Awareness and acceptance of differences, where a worker would learn the differences in ones’ own culture as well as the cultures of those you could be serving. Self awareness, understand ones’ self so you understand why your culture is the way it is. This sometimes reveals unknown biases. Dynamics of difference, being aware of the cultural differences and knowing that miscommunications might occur, so one knows how to handle it if it does occur. Knowledge of the clients’ culture, a worker must know the facts about the culture of the client, never make assumptions based off of stereotypes. Lastly, adaptation of skills, a worker must be willing to change ones’ view when new knowledge is taught (Diller, 2015,2011).

When students take courses to become a social worker, they will often hear the term critical thinking. In 1992 the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and as quoted in Gambrill & Gibbs, and Huff, began requiring that a baccalaureate and master’s programs teach students to “apply critical thinking skills” in professional social work practice (Mathias July-Sep 2015). There is not a definite definition to critical thinking. There are two different arguments over the definition, and both arguments have benefits, like offering different perceptions on the challenge. It was said by Gambrill and Gibbs, that critical thinking is the same as using scientific reasoning, and Witkin, Gibbons, and Gray said it is based off social work values (Mathias July-Sep 2015). By making it a requirement for students to use critical thinking by both perspectives helps to broaden the students own perceptions on different challenges. Social workers have to be mediators and play a lot of different roles. In order to play those roles well a worker must be able to be open-minded and not cast personal feelings on any situation, so being able to see things with different perceptions will help the worker be more diverse. The workers would be able to help more clients with having the skill to do critical thinking.

Learning the different skills needed to have to be a social worker, can be beneficial. It allows for the worker to know what the right choices are and what is expected of them as a social worker. With all the good there is going to still be bad. Not all cases are going to be tolerable. A worker might have a case in which one is assigned to work with the perpetrator of a crime committed, like a child offender, or a murderer. It would be normal to not agree with the choice a client made in the past; but a worker cannot hold a grudge against the client for that bad choice. Sometimes, when a client is required to get help for the crime committed it is due to a mental disorder. There is test they do called Dusky competency prongs, and studies have been done that compared to the variables with-in the test and it had shown that it is not easily understood. It is difficult to make sense of and can cause problems (Grey,et al Oct 2017). Problems where the perpetrator is found not guilty to mental incompetence, but a worker can feel that the client was competent of the crime they committed. In the test, “it was hypothesized that psychiatric symptoms that negatively impact thought organization (e.g., impaired mental status, thought derailment) would be negatively related to the ability of a defendant to factually understand court proceedings. To evaluate this hypothesis, chi square analyses were utilized. There was a significant association between impaired mental status (e.g., lack of orientation to person, place, time and/or situation) and impaired ability to understand the proceedings factually” (Grey,et al Oct 2017).

If this is the case then the worker should report to the supervisor before working with the client. If a worker has any vengeance towards the client it could show on the workers expressions making it obvious to the client. The supervisor could work with the worker in assigning them a new case.

A workers body language will tell a client how the workers feel about them. It is critical to know and use good body language and good listening skills when working with clients. These are especially important when dealing with clients that have different values or beliefs than the worker. A worker might practice different scenarios, with those they feel comfortable, and get comfortable with using positive confrontation when dealing with issues that might arise when dealing with someone of different beliefs or values.

Personal beliefs such as morals, values, spirituality and religion cannot be pushed on a client. There is a way to use clients’ spiritually as one of their strengths, but the worker must know all aspects of those clients’ religion, first (Kirst-Ashman, Hull, 2018, 2015).

Ultimately the worker should focus on the main objective, which is the client. The main focal point of the worker should be assessing the client to be able to identify the problem, needs, and strengths of that client (Kirst-Ashman, Hull, 2018, 2015). The main focus should always be the client, and never about the worker. Even if the client has made bad choices the workers focus should be on the client strength so they can be encouraging to the client. There are seven areas of strengths a worker can cover when working with a client, no matter what the diversity between client and worker are. The first area of strengths to cover would be family and friends. Find out who the positive family and friends are in the clients life. Second would be education or employment history. Look into whether or not the client is under-employed. Third, problem solving and decision-making skills; look for examples where the client used these skills positively in the past. Fourth, personal qualities and characteristics; look for the positive things about the clients’ personality. Fifth would be physical and financial resources; see if the client has means in paying for transportation, or housing. Sixth, attitude and perception look for motivation and willingness to work to change the better. Seventh is religion spirituality or other strengths (Kirst-Ashman, Hull, 2018, 2015).

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The best way to deal with adversity when dealing with clients is to keep the clients as the main focus. Follow the social workers core values. Be competent. Have good listening skills and positive body language. Then, when dealing with clients that don’t share the same beliefs, it will be easier to handle it the correct way while remaining ethical.


  • Bent-Goodley, Tricia B. (Oct 2017) Living our core values. Social work, vol.62, issue 4, p293-295
  • Diller, Jerry V. (2015, 2011) Cultural Diversity: A primer for Human Diversity. Cengage Learning, fifth edition, p21-24
  • Gay, Jeremy G.1 Ragatz, Laurie2 Vitacco, Michael2,3(Oct 2017) Mental Health Symptoms and their Relationship to Specific Deficits in Competency to Proceed to Trial Evaluations. Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, vol.22, issue 5, p780-791
  • Kirst-Ashman, Karen K., Hull, Grafton H. Jr., (2018,2015) Empowerment Series: Understanding Generalist Practice. Cengage Learning, eighthedition, p6-9, p24-25, p45, p86-87, p189-191
  • Mathias, John (July-Sep 2015) Thinking Like a Social Worker: Examining the Meaning of  Critical Thinking in Social Work.  Journal of Social Work Education, vol.51, issue 3,               p457-474


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