We couldn't find a good article online about
the ethics of media appearances for social workers. What do you do
when asked to comment about a client for newspaper, radio, or
TV? For an answer, we turned to Dr. Frederic Reamer, a
professor, author, and social work ethics authority. His
I have not written articles on this
specific topic, although I say a little bit in my book
Ethical Standards in Social Work.
I'd suggest reviewing relevant standards in the NASW Code of
Ethics (particularly standard 1.07[k]).
As I trust you know, social workers have a duty to avoid
disclosure of any identifying, confidential, or privileged
information about a client without client consent.
Occasionally a client will consent to such disclosure to
media. I think social workers need to be careful about
disclosing such information, even with client consent, if there's
any risk that the client would be harmed by the disclosure.
Part of the problem with disclosure with client consent is that the
general public may not know that the client consented, and this can
create the impression that therapists don't protect client
confidentiality. I often tell reporters that I can comment
about "classes" or "groups" of clients in general, but I'm not
permitted to comment about any individual client.
I would be careful to document thoroughly any discussion with a
client about the potential benefits and risks of disclosure.
For more from Dr. Reamer, try
Amazon and his Social Work Today column, Eye