Principle I: Relationship with Clients

The social work relationship and the social service work relationship, as components of professional service, are each a mutual endeavour between active participants in providing and using professional expertise. Clients and College registrants jointly address relevant social, organizational, and/or personal issues of concern to clients. The foundation of this professional orientation is the belief that clients have the right and capacity to determine and achieve their goals and objectives. The social work relationship and the social service work relationship are each grounded in, and draw upon, theories of the social sciences and social work or social service work practice.


College registrants work with clients and client systems which include individuals, couples, families, groups, communities, organizations and government. The following fundamental practice principles arise from basic professional values, and College registrants shall adhere to these principles in their relationships with clients:

1.1 College registrants and clients shall participate together in setting and evaluating goals. A purpose for the relationship between College registrants and clients is identified.

1.2 Goals for relationships between College registrants and clients shall include enhancing clients’ functioning and strengthening their capacity to adapt and make changes.

1.3 College registrants shall observe, clarify and inquire about information presented to them by clients.

1.4 College registrants shall respect and facilitate self-determination in a number of ways, including acting as resources for clients and encouraging them to decide which problems to address and how to address them.

1.5 College registrants shall be aware that limitations to self-determination may arise from agency mandate or function, or under the law (including under legislation, or an order of a court or tribunal). 

1.6 College registrants shall respect each client’s uniqueness and intersectionality, and how personal and systemic factors shape perceptions and worldviews.

1.7 College registrants shall be aware of and reflect upon their values, attitudes, assumptions and biases and how these impact their professional relationships with clients.

1.8 College registrants shall distinguish their own needs and interests from those of their clients to ensure that, within professional relationships, clients’ needs and interests remain paramount.

1.9 College registrants employed by organizations shall consider the purpose, mandate and function of those organizations and how these impact upon and limit professional relationships with clients.