Advocacy – 1. The act of directly representing or defending others. 2. Championing the rights of individuals, groups or communities through direct intervention or through empowerment. It is a basic obligation of the professions and its registrants.**† 

Assessment –The typically short-term process to determine the nature and progression of a presenting issue by identifying strengths and capacities in the client system and what can be changed to minimize or resolve it. The information gathered in an assessment is used to identify specific goals and appropriate interventions; re-assessment occurs throughout the College registrant’s relationship with the client as part of the continuum of service delivery.

Best interests – The most advantageous outcome for a client at a point in time. College registrants must be aware that client circumstances are nuanced and can change quickly and often, and it is not possible to fully anticipate all outcomes of an intervention.

Body of Knowledge – Each of the phrases “body of professional social work knowledge” and “body of professional social service work knowledge” relates to both theoretical and practical understanding. A body of knowledge can be attained through education, clinical experience, consultation and supervision, professional development and a review of relevant research and literature. Professional social work knowledge and professional social service work knowledge draw upon the knowledge base of other professions including sociology, psychology, anthropology, medicine, law and economics as well as their own respective distinct bodies of knowledge.

Cease practice – When College registrants retire from the profession and are no longer practising social work or social service work. As used in the Standards of Practice, College registrants who are suspended are not considered to have ceased practice, even though they are not permitted to engage in activities falling within the scope of practice during the period of suspension.

Client – The individual, couple, family, group, supervisee, student, research participant, organization or community that seeks or is provided with either direct or indirect professional services, as detailed in the Scopes of Practice. When the College registrant is employed by an organization, the client is considered to be a client of both the College registrant and the organization. While College registrants have obligations to their employers (including confidentiality obligations), a College registrant’s employer is not considered a client within the meaning of these Standards of Practice except when the College registrant has been contracted as a consultant. 

Client Information – Information provided by a client that relates to others and/or the client themself, as well as information about the client provided by others (for example, information concerning the client’s mental or emotional health provided by other health professionals or contained in records from other sources).

Client system – Those in the client’s environment who may influence client outcomes.

Competence – For social workers and social service workers it means: The ability to fulfill the requirements of professional practice. Competence includes possession of all relevant educational and experiential requirements, and the ability to carry out professional duties and achieve goals while adhering to the values and code of ethics of the professions. Competence for social workers and social service workers also includes, but is not limited to, having the capacity to understand and act reasonably. ** † 

Complaints Committee – A statutory committee of the College, the mandate of which is to consider and investigate written complaints regarding the conduct or actions of College registrants of the College and to determine the appropriate action to be taken in respect of such complaints, in accordance with the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, including but not limited to issuing a caution or referral of the matter to the Discipline Committee or Fitness to Practise Committee.

Confidentiality – A principle of ethics according to which the College registrant may not disclose information about a client without the client’s consent. This information includes, but is not limited to, the identity of the client, the content of overt verbalizations or other communications with the client, professional opinions about the client, and material from records relating to or supplied by the client.**

Conflict of Interest – A College registrant is in a “conflict of interest” when they have a personal, financial or professional interest or obligation that may influence how they carry out their professional responsibilities. A conflict of interest may be actual or perceived, the latter meaning that a reasonable person, informed of all the circumstances, would have concerns that the interest or obligation may influence the registrant in the exercise of their professional responsibilities. A mere possibility or suspicion of influence does not in itself create a conflict of interest. 

Consultation – An interpersonal relationship between an individual or organization possessing special expertise and someone who needs that expertise to solve a specific problem. Consultation in the context of social work or social service work practice is a problem-solving process in which advice and other helping activity from the consultant is offered to an individual, group, organization, or community that is faced with a job-related problem. Unlike supervision, which is relatively continuous and encompasses many areas of concern, consultation occurs more on an ad hoc, or temporary basis, and has a specific goal and focus. Unlike the supervisor, the consultant has no special administrative authority over those to whom advice is given. **† 

Counselling Services – Counselling services are defined as services provided within the context of a professional relationship with the goal of assisting clients in addressing issues in their lives by such activities as helping clients to find solutions and make choices through exploration of options, identification of strengths and needs, locating information and providing resources, and promoting a variety of coping strategies, but do not include psychotherapy services or the controlled act of psychotherapy.

Cultural Humility – A process of self-reflection to understand personal and systemic biases and to develop and maintain respectful processes and relationships based on mutual trust. Cultural humility involves humbly acknowledging oneself as a learner when it comes to understanding another’s experience. *******

Disbursements – Money paid out by or on behalf of a client for charges or expenses (other than the College registrant’s professional fees) relating to professional services provided by a College registrant to the client. Disbursements may include, but are not limited to, charges for courier services, photocopies, long distance telephone calls, etc.*†

Discipline Committee – A statutory committee of the College, the mandate of which is to hear and determine allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence on the part of a member of the College directed or referred to it by the Complaints Committee, the Council, or the Executive Committee.

Documentation by exception – Recording only those behaviours which do not occur routinely. The College registrant records situations or behaviours that are out of keeping with the client’s usual behaviour or circumstance.****

Dual Relationship – In addition to the professional relationship, the College registrant has a past, present, or future familial, social, financial, supervisory or other relationship with the client. A dual relationship does not necessarily constitute a conflict of interest, but when present, it creates the strong possibility that an actual or perceived conflict of interest will arise. 

Efficacy – The capacity to help the client achieve, in a reasonable time period, the goals of a given intervention.**† 

Evidence – Refers to information tending to establish facts. For College registrants, evidence can include, but is not limited to: direct observation; information collected in clinical sessions; collateral information; information from documents and information gathered from the use of clinical tools (e.g. diagnostic assessment measures, rating scales).

Excessive fees – An amount that exceeds what is considered usual, reasonable and customary which may be determined by comparing other registrants’ charges for similar services.

Fitness to Practise Committee – A statutory committee of the College, the mandate of which is to hold hearings which are generally closed to the public and to determine allegations of incapacity referred to it by the Complaints Committee, the Executive Committee or Council, in accordance with the legislation; to hold hearings to determine applications for reinstatement or to vary terms, conditions or limitations imposed as a result of a Fitness to Practise hearing. 

Formal Notice – A written statement concerning a fact that is communicated to the affected person, giving that person an awareness of the fact.* 

Genogram – A diagram used to depict family relationships extended over three generations. The diagram traditionally used circles to represent women and squares for men, with horizontal lines indicating marriages; however, there are many modern variations. Vertical lines are drawn from the marriage lines to other circles and squares to depict the children. The diagram may contain other symbols or written explanations to indicate critical events, such as death, divorce, and remarriage, and to reveal recurrent patterns of behaviour.**†

Identifying information – Information that identifies an individual or for which it is reasonably foreseeable in the circumstances that it could be utilized, either alone or in combination with other information, to identify an individual.

Intersectionality – The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw a professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School. ******†

Intervention – 1. Coming between groups of people, events, planning activities, or an individual’s internal conflicts. 2. In social work, the term is analogous to the physician’s term “treatment”. Many social workers prefer using “intervention” because it includes “treatment” and also encompasses the other activities social work registrants use to solve or prevent problems or achieve goals for social betterment. These could include psychotherapy (including psychotherapy services and/or the controlled act of psychotherapy), advocacy, mediation, social planning, community organization, finding and developing resources.**† 

Member – Has the same meaning as “registrant”. Throughout its website, documentation, and Standards of Practice (and other materials), the College uses the terms “member” and “registrant” interchangeably.

Paraprofessional – An individual with specialized knowledge and technical training who works closely with and is supervised by a professional.** †

Professional Corporation – In relation to the practice of social work or social service work by one or more College registrants, “professional corporation” means a body corporate with share capital incorporated or continued under the Business Corporations Act, RSO 1990, c. B.16 for the purpose of practising social work or social service work, that holds a valid certificate of authorization issued under the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, S.O. 1998, c. 31. 

Psychosocial – Of or involving the influence of social factors or human interactive behaviour, it recognizes the complex interdependence of individual psychology, cultural and social/interpersonal context. 

Psychotherapy services – are defined as any form of treatment for psycho-social or emotional difficulties, behavioural maladaptation’s and/or other problems that are assumed to be of an emotional nature, in which a College registrants, establishes a professional relationship with a client for the purposes of promoting positive personal growth and development. 

The controlled act of psychotherapy is defined in the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (the “RHPA”) as “Treating by means of psychotherapy technique, delivered through a therapeutic relationship, an individual’s serious disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgment, insight, behaviour, communication or social functioning.” It should be noted that the definition of the controlled act of psychotherapy is different from the definition of psychotherapy services. While it is possible that not all psychotherapy would be found to fall under the definition of the controlled act, this cannot yet be determined with certainty, given that there is currently no guidance on that point from the courts or College Discipline Committees.

Reasonable effort – The approach expected of a College registrant in the same circumstances, practising in accordance with the standards of the profession, in order to provide timely, comprehensive and respectful care and services.

RSSW – Registered Social Service Worker. A registrant of the College who holds a certificate of registration for social service work. 

RSW – Registered Social Worker. A registrant of the College who holds a certificate of registration for social work.

Registrant – Has the same meaning as “member”. Throughout its website, documentation, and Standards of Practice (and other materials), the College uses the terms “member” and “registrant” interchangeably. The term “registrant” refers and is equivalent to anyone captured by the term “member” as used in the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998.

Self-Determination – An ethical principle that recognizes the rights and needs of clients to be free to make their own choices and decisions. Inherent in the principle is the requirement for the College registrant to help the client know what the resources and choices are and what the potential consequences of selecting any one of them may be. **†

Social Justice – An ideal condition in which all members of a society have the same basic rights, protection, opportunities, obligations, and social benefits. Implicit in this concept is the notion that historical inequalities should be acknowledged and remedied through specific measures. A key social work and social service work value, social justice entails advocacy to confront discrimination, oppression, and institutional inequities. **†

Social Work Diagnosis – A social work diagnosis, also known as a biopsychosocial assessment, is a series of judgments based on social work knowledge and skills that considers the historical and systemic factors impacting clients and client systems. It is conducted through a trauma, anti-oppressive and culturally informed lens. This process: 

a) identifies the underlying causes of a client’s situation and offers an in-depth assessment and analysis; 

b) supports the development of a treatment/intervention plan for which the social worker has assumed professional responsibility; and 

c) is based on the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

Subpoena – A legal document requiring a person to attend before a court or a tribunal, or at an out-of- court examination, to be examined as a witness in a legal proceeding.*

Supervision – An administrative and educational process through which supervisees develop and refine their social work/social service work knowledge and skills, engage in critical self-reflection, improve their resilience, and ensure that they are able to provide quality care and services to their clients. Supervisors may assign cases, discuss assessment and intervention plans, and review ongoing contact with clients. Supervision may also assist the supervisee in gaining a better understanding of social work and/or social service work philosophies, agency policies, and community resources. Less experienced College registrants typically require more frequent and formal supervision, whereas those who are more experienced may seek supervision less frequently, engaging instead in case consultation, peer group interactions, or other professional development. Educational supervision is oriented toward professional concerns and specific cases whereas administrative supervision focuses on agency policy and public accountability. College registrants may be supervised by Indigenous Elders or registered professionals from outside the profession. Supervisors are providing direct social work/social work services and it is an act of professional misconduct to fail to provide adequate supervision. **†

* Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, Henry Campbell Black et al, 1979
** The Social Work Dictionary, 6th Edition, Robert L. Barker, 2014
*** Client Rights in Psychotherapy and Counselling, A Handbook of Client Rights and Therapist Responsibility, Susan Beamish, Michelle Melanson and Marilyn Oladimeji, 1998
**** Ontario Association of Social Workers, Guidelines for Social Work Record-Keeping, 1999 
***** The Strengths Perspective in Social Work, Dennis Saleebey, 1992
****** Oxford English Dictionary, December 2022
******* First Nations Health Authority, 2023
† Definition has been adapted from the original source.