The Standards of Practice set out minimum standards of professional and ethical conduct required of registrants of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (the College), in accordance with the College’s mandate to protect the public from unprofessional, incompetent, and unfit practitioners1. The Standards of Practice, which have been approved by the College Council and implemented by bylaw, provide a means to guide College registrants, assess their behaviour, and adjudicate issues of professional practice.
The Standards of Practice apply to the breadth and scope of social work and social service work practice; they are to be applied by College registrants in their practice using their professional judgment in conjunction with any applicable legislation. Within the scope of practice for each profession, there may be variations in approaches and College registrants may modify their interventions in response to the demands of a particular situation so long as the Standards of Practice are met.
MEANING OF CLIENT
The term “client” refers to any recipient of social work or social service work services. In differentiating between a client and a client system, a registrant could ask the question: “To whom do I have an obligation in respect to the services I am providing?” A client could be an individual, couple, family, group, supervisee, student, research participant, organization or community that seeks and/or is the recipient of professional services. The College registrant’s employer is not a client, except in circumstances where the College registrant has been contracted by the employer as a consultant.
Practice Notes: Clients and Client Systems
TYPES OF PRACTICE
College registrants provide a wide range of services that encompass direct and indirect practice and clinical and non-clinical interventions. Direct practice refers to professional activities on behalf of clients in which goals are reached through personal contact and immediate influence with those seeking services. Indirect practice refers to professional activities that do not involve immediate or personal contact with the client being served.2
For social workers, clinical practice refers to the professional application of social work theory and methods to the treatment and prevention of psychosocial disorder, disability or impairment, including but not limited to emotional and mental disorders.3
For social service workers, clinical practice refers to the professional application of social service work theory and methods to the treatment and prevention of social disorder, disability or impairment, including but not limited to emotional or mental disorders.
It is important to note that the contexts of practice may overlap. For example, a College registrant may provide counselling (direct-clinical), information and referral (indirect-clinical) to the same client. A College registrant may provide social support to clients in a social-recreational group (direct-non-clinical) or may administer a human service program (indirect-non-clinical).
The Standards of Practice contain eight Principles, each of which contains detailed Interpretations which provide further guidance to College registrants. All of the Standards of Practice apply to direct, indirect, clinical and non-clinical practice, unless otherwise stated. While a College registrant may find a specific Principle most relevant to their particular practice situation, the Standards of Practice should be considered and applied as a whole by registrants, in conjunction with the statutory requirements of the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998, S.O. 1998, c. 31, and regulations.
If at any time a registrant is unclear about their professional obligations or the requirements of the Standards of Practice, College registrants are encouraged to contact the College for guidance.
1 The Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998.
2 From the Social Work Dictionary 6th edition by Robert L. Barker, NASW Press
3 From the Social Work Dictionary 6th edition by Robert L. Barker, NASW Press