The Social Worker-Client Relationship

  • Sana Loue


The chapter focuses on the nature of the social worker-client relationship and relevant legal parameters. The issues of informed consent, social worker-client agreements, and need for supervision are also discussed.


  1. Austin, A. W. (2007). Medical decisions and children: How much voice should children have in their medical care? Arizona Law Review, 49, 143–169.Google Scholar
  2. Barker, R. L. (1999). Social work dictionary (4th ed.). Washington, DC: NASW Press.Google Scholar
  3. Barsky, A. E. (2010). Ethics and values in social work: An integrated approach for a comprehensive curriculum. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (1994). Principles of biomedical ethics (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Berkman, C. S., & Zinberg, G. (1997). Homophobia and heterosexism in social workers. Social Work, 42(4), 319–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Black, H. C. (1979). Black’s law dictionary (5th ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  7. Blake, V. (2012). Minors’ refusal of live-saving therapies. AMA Journal of Ethics. Accessed 26 June 2017.
  8. Brown, L. S. (1994). Subversive dialogues: Theory in feminist therapy. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  9. Committee on Bioethics, American Academy of Pediatrics. (1995). Informed consent, parental permission, and assent in pediatric practice. Pediatrics, 95, 314–317.Google Scholar
  10. Croxton, T. A. (1988). Caveats on contract. Social Work, 33(2), 169–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis, L. E., & Proctor, E. K. (1989). Race, gender, and class: Guidelines for practice with individuals, families, and groups. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  12. Desselle, D., & Proctor, T. (2000). Advocating for the elderly hard-of-hearing population: The deaf people we ignore. Social Work, 45(3), 277–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dietz, C., & Thompson, J. (2004). Rethinking boundaries. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 15(2), 1–24.Google Scholar
  14. Felton, E. M., & Polowy, C. I. (2015). Termination: Ending the therapeutic relationship—Avoiding abandonment. Accessed 26 June 2017.
  15. Franklin, D. L. (1986). Does client social class affect clinical judgment? Social Casework: The Journal of Contemporary Social Work, 67, 424–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gambrill, E. (2001). Social work: An authority-based profession. Research in Social Work Practice, 11(2), 166–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heyward, C. (1993). When boundaries betray us: Beyond illusions of what is ethical in therapy and in life. San Francisco: Harper.Google Scholar
  18. Kagle, J. D., & Giebelhausen, P. N. (1994). Dual relationships and professional boundaries. Social Work, 39, 213–220.Google Scholar
  19. Kant, I. (1959). Foundations of the metaphysics of morals. L.W. Beck (trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill Company.Google Scholar
  20. Kant, I. (1964). The doctrine of virtue. In Kant, I. Metaphysics of morals, part II. M. Gregor (trans.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kutchins, H. (1991). The fiduciary relationship: The legal basis for social workers’ responsibilities to clients. Social Work, 36(2), 106–113.Google Scholar
  22. Lawrence, G., & Kurpius, S. E. R. (2000). Legal and ethical issues involved when counseling minors in nonschool settings. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78, 130–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Loue, S. (2017). Strengths-based social work. In A. Sandu & A. Frunza (Eds.), Ethical issues in social work practice (pp. 62–81). Hershey: IGI Global. Scholar
  24. Loue, S., & Parkinson, J. (2015). Special ethical considerations in sandplay therapy. In S. Loue (Ed.), Ethical issues in sandplay therapy practice and research (pp. 87–98). New York: Springer Science+Business.Google Scholar
  25. Maradiegue, A. (2003). Minors’ rights versus parental rights: Review of legal issues in adolescent health care. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 48(3), 170–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mattison, D., Jayaratne, S., & Croxton, T. (2002). Client or former client? Implications of ex-client definition on social work practice. Social Work, 47(1), 55–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mayer, J., & Timms, N. (1969). Clash in perspective between worker and client. Social Casework, 50, 32–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Miley, K. K., O’Melia, M., & DuBois, B. (2001). Generalist social work practice: An empowering approach (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  29. Mill, J. S. (1977). On liberty. In Collected works of John Stuart Mills, vol. 18. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  30. National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics. Accessed 11 February 2016.
  31. O’Donnell, J. (1999). Involvement of African American fathers in kinship foster care services. Social Work, 44(5), 428–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Palmer, N., & Kaufman, M. (2003). The ethics of informed consent. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 12(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Peterson, M. R. (1992). At personal risk: Boundary violations in professional-client relationships. New York: W.W. Norton & Co..Google Scholar
  34. Polowy, C. I., & Felton, E. (2015). Working with children: The many layers of consent to treat. Accessed 26 June 2017.
  35. Purtilo, R., & Allen, A. (Eds.). (1999). Ethical dimensions in the health professions (3rd ed.). Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  36. Reamer, F. D. (2003). Boundary issues in social work: Managing dual relationships. Social Work, 48(1), 121–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rozovsky, F. A. (2001). Consent to treatment: A practical guide. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.Google Scholar
  38. Schlam, L., & Wood, J. P. (2000). Informed consent to the medical treatment of minors: Law and practice. Health Matrix, 10, 141–174.Google Scholar
  39. Seabury, B. A. (1976). The contract: Uses, abuses, and limitations. Social Work, 21(1), 16–21.Google Scholar
  40. Strom-Gottfried, K. (1998). Informed consent meets managed care. Health & Social Work, 23(1), 25–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Vukadinovich, D. M. (2004). Minors’ rights to consent to treatment: Navigating the complexity of state laws. Journal of Health Law, 37, 667–691.Google Scholar
  42. Wallach, T. (1999). Rights of children: Statutory emancipation in California. Privilege or poverty? Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, 11, 669–673.Google Scholar

Legal References


    1. Andrews v. Board of Social Worker Licensure, 2005 WL (Me. Super. Ct. 2005).Google Scholar
    2. Doe v. Harbor Schools, Inc., 445 Mass. 1101 (2005).Google Scholar
    3. MacDonald v. Clinger, 446 N.Y.S.2d 801 (App. Div. 1982).Google Scholar
    4. Martino v. Family Service Agency of Adams County, 445 N.E.2d (Ill. App. 1982).Google Scholar
    5. Noval v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., (2012). Accessed 12 June 2017.
    6. Roy v. Hartogs, 381 N.Y.S.2d 587 (1976).Google Scholar
    7. Weisbeck v. Hess, 524 N.W.2d 363 (Sup. Ct. S.D. 1994).Google Scholar


    1. California Family Code § 6924(b)-(e) (2017)Google Scholar
    2. Code of Alabama § 22-8-3 (2017)Google Scholar
    3. New York Consolidated Law Service Mental Hygiene §33.21 (c) (2017)Google Scholar
    4. Ohio Revised Code Annotated § 122.04 (A)-(C) (2017)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sana Loue
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Medicine, Department of BioethicsCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

Personalised recommendations