Code of Ethics Regarding Dual Role Relationships Discussion


Respond to at least two colleagues by explaining how your colleague’s decision contradicts or supports the NASW Code of Ethics as it pertains to dual-role relationships. In addition, provide a suggestion for how your colleague might balance the needs of the client while maintaining the NASW Code of Ethics regarding dual-role relationships.

Colleague 1: Kristine Bush

RE: Discussion 2 – Week 2


A fifteen-year-old boy calls the crisis hotline for help and I find that I may know his mother.

First, I would answer the call, introduce myself, and ask about the nature of the crisis. Once I realize I may know his mother, I would explain to him who I am, and let him know that he can talk to me, I will listen, and help him to the best of my ability to get him through this crisis, so that he can work with his usual counselor when they return from vacation. I will explain to him about the client confidentiality rules that will protect him from his situation being shared with the public, and that he can choose to call another hotline number that I will give him to talk to someone from another clinic, if that would make him more comfortable. In a crisis situation, I feel it would not benefit him by just passing him over to another clinic without following these steps first. As the scenario suggests, being in a rural area, dual relationships may be a fact of life that not all of the social workers can get away from. Clear boundaries are the best way to ensure that we maintain the relationship and it remains therapeutic.

As stated by Sawyer and Prescott in the article Boundaries and Dual Relationships (2011), “explicitly defined boundaries create and maintain clarity for the client about the nature and limits of the professional relationship” (pg. 369). I live in a community that is fast growing but is considered a rural community and I can already see that I will be challenged in this role serving my community. In Dual Relationships and Beyond, the authors Daley and Hickman stated, “boundary violations for rural social workers constituted nineteen-point five percent of the reports. Of those, fifty-two percent of them were for dual relationships” (2011). This will be one of the many challenges faced as a new social worker in a small community.


Daley, M. R., & Hickman, S. (2011). Dual Relationships and Beyond: Understanding and addressing ethical challenges for rural social work. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 8(1). Retrieved from…

Sawyer, S., & Prescott, D. (2011) Boundaries and Dual Relationships. Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment, 23(3), 365-380.

Colleague 2:Rachel Ramsey

RE: Discussion 2 – Week 2


Dual-Role Relationships

In many professions, such as in social work, professionals may encounter dual-role relationships, though, in social work, professionals potentially may cause harm or exploit the client. Social workers are guided by the National Association of Social Work (NASW) Code of Ethics, a set of standards that guide the professional conduct of social workers (2017). Moreover, the Code of Ethics highlights dual relationships, which are when a professional play a multitude role simultaneously. However, it may be unbeknownst to them initially or even unavoidable in certain circumstances. As the unavoidability of the dual relationship exists due to living in a rural community with limited resources, NASW places the social worker’s responsibility to ensure the client is not exploited or harmed (NASW, 2017, 1.06c). In situations where there is unavoidability, such as in rural communities, Gonyea et al. (2014) assert, due to limited opportunities in rural communities for ethical decision making, as professionals “rely on their professional judgment about the level of benefit or detriment to the client” (p. 134). The study expounded on the complexity of providing services that were needed for the more significant benefit of the client than the concern of the duality of the relationship (Gonyea et al., 2014, p. 131).

Regarding the scenario described, the professional should avoid the duality as she is described as a friend to the boys’ parents. However, there is a gray area, as the scenario does not provide enough information to provide sound reasoning. For instance, do they reside in a rural community or close the friendship between the professional and the teen’s parents. For hypothetical purposes, the social worker should not engage in the possible dual relationship. The client is currently suffering though he is not in an active state of crisis; there is no impending danger, as the individual is not having suicidal ideations. As a professional, I would develop a detailed plan with the 15-year-old and provide resources for the prospective client. Reamer asserts that the best deterrence is vigilance in the form of social workers’ “constant awareness of potential ethical missteps” (Reamer, 2011).

Boundaries are vital when engaging with clients, as clients and professionals may be privy to a false guise when “helping” the client. Handon (2009) emphasizes that social workers may be attempting to build rapport or service the client’s needs to evoke change within the client, and the “worker may be befriending the client.” In my current profession as an Adoption and Foster Care worker, I have experienced this scenario, as the client may consider my technique of building rapport as an attempt to cultivate a personal relationship. As I have never experienced a dual-role relationship while working here, as I am not formally from Georgia, I have observed co-workers developing dual-role relationships with clients, which ultimately ends terribly for the professional. Reamer (2011) stresses, “social workers should be careful to maintain clear and appropriate boundaries in relationships with clients.”


Gonyea, J. L., Wright, D. W., & Earl‐Kulkosky, T. (2014). Navigating dual relationships in rural communities. Journal of marital and family therapy, 40(1), 125-136.

Handon, R. M. (2009). Client relationships and ethical boundaries for social workers in child welfare. The New Social Worker. Retrieved from

National Association of Social Workers. (2017). Code of ethics. Retrieved from

Reamer, F. G. (2011, November 30). When bad things happen to good social workers: The perils of ethics mistakes. Social Work Today. Retrieved from