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Students will complete a reflective journal focused on the interrelated questions below.

The purpose of this task is for students to critically reflect on their own values, (morals, and ethics) and also on stated professional values and ethics and explore both compatibility and tensions if they exist.

Students are to focus their reflection on the following interrelated questions.

Reflect on your own personal values, how did these form?

How do they or will they impact on your role as a social worker?

Reflect on the AASW code of ethics as a guide for ethical professional practice – how do these ethical positions fit with your personal values?

Reflect on the statement ‘Unconditional positive regard for the other is a core ethical position for professional social work practice’. What challenges might this ethical position engender?

Discussion As with any assessment task, the key is to answer the question fully in the space provided. Looking at this question you can see that there are several elements, each of which need to be addressed to fully answer the question. Here there are three main ‘questions’ to address, however each contains a secondary question or questions.

For example, the first ‘question’ asks you to reflect your own personal values, and here I would include your own moral position and or ethical position if that is a useful way to think.

You are also asked to reflect upon how these values formed and how they impact on your professional role – either now or into the future.

The second and third questions follow a similar pattern. I would suggest that you briefly develop an ‘essay plan’ to assist you in answering the question fully. Note that in addition to the elements of the question.

Reflect on your own personal values, how did these form?

Social work is a profession that mainly deals with the wellbeing of people in the community. At the mention of social work, the concepts of alleviating hunger, poverty and suffering immediately arise. Social workers usually help those affected by the concepts to meet their basic needs. Dealing with such groups of people might be quite challenging as it involves addressing some complex needs such as emotional distress (Chechak, 2015). At times, ethical professions are involved in difficult situations which require guidelines to handle. At such situations, values usually clash, and the workers found themselves at crossroads not knowing which path to take. Ethical awareness plays a huge role in such situations. Ethical awareness is a critical aspect of social work practice which determines the quality of services that the clients receive. Lack of ethical awareness may lead to rush decisions which may create major implications in social work. Different social work institutions set different codes of ethics to guide their professionals. At times, these codes may clash with personal values (Chechak, 2015). Harmonizing personal values and the set codes is an essential duty of a social worker to ensure that service is not compromised. All social workers must be guided by 'unconditional positive regard for the other'. This stance may engender major challenges in the practice by harbouring injustices.

Personal values

I learnt that I wanted to become a social worker in the earlier stages of my life. Thus, I started adopting the values that I felt were right in the profession, even before joining my higher education levels. Over the years, I have learnt that social work entails a wide range of values whose application largely differs on various factors. However, I have developed five core values that I believe are applicable in most situations and would assist me to serve better. My core social work personal values are justice, integrity, compassion, empathy and service. These values are purely developed from my understanding of the underprivileged in society. I grew up witnessing the injustices that the vulnerable in the society face and decided that I would help them attain a better life once I attain the capacity.

It is the duty of every social worker to promote justice in the communities that they work in. For centuries, human existence has been characterized by unending social injustice which promotes intergenerational marginalization (Gelmez, Hatiboglu, & Öngen, 2019). I believe that promoting justice at the societal level will enable some vulnerable groups to achieve rights which they have always viewed as a privilege. Integrity is not only a personal value but an aspect at the core of all professions. Being a social worker, I believe that I should act in a consistent manner that portrays me as a reliable, trustworthy and honest person. Since my younger ages, I tend to be so compassionate towards people experiencing misfortunes. I hate to see people suffer and would always want to do something to see them out of their suffering. Compassionate people are usually kind, caring and always willing to help others. Compassion is among the chief personal values that can drive an individual towards social work. I believe that the vulnerable in society too need to be shown care. In addition to being compassionate, over the years, I have learnt to be empathetic. Empathy entails imagining self in a similar situation as the subject in question. Being empathetic helps in estimating the pain that a person might be undergoing, which helps in appealing for help (Prinsloo, 2014). Generally, social work is founded on service. Service to humanity is a major personal value majorly exuded by social workers. I have learnt over time to postpone my personal interests to serve others. Though difficult at times, it brings me a high level of satisfaction which I would possibly not gain in prioritizing my personal interests. The five values explained form a major basis of my social work profession, and I will always uphold them to achieve better service.

How do they or will they impact on your role as a social worker?

Ethically, I tend to be mostly inclined towards moral relativism. To some extent, I believe that there is no absolute right and wrong. Moral relativism postulates that moral judgments are ascertained as true or false relative to a certain position or standpoint. The position of relativism is usually unique for everyone each time. I find it so easy to resonate with moral relativism because I dislike judgmental behaviour. Ideally, people are so quick to judge actions without considering what drove an individual to the actions. If they were in a similar situation, they would possibly have acted in a similar manner and would definitely not want to be judged. Moral relativism allows people to act in line with their circumstances. However, at times people misuse this position to challenge moral values (Rai & Holyoak, 2013). People should avoid using moral relativism for defence. In social work, moral relativism helps in understanding people who are undergoing crisis and require emotional support. Such people ought not to be neglected but rather be helped to restore their stability.  

How do the Personal Values Form?

Personal values tend to form gradually as one grows in life. They may develop from the influence created by personal experiences, cultural experiences, family, friends, workplace experiences and legal frameworks. My personal values have substantially formed from the influence of my family, friends and personal experiences. My family formed the greatest basis for the growth of personal lives. Children, while growing up, are almost predetermined to live by the values exhibited by their parents, siblings and other close relatives. I learnt various traits from my parents which I have upheld even in my adulthood. Friends have had a great influence on the formation of my personal values. Through interactions with friends, I have learnt major lessons which impacted my worldview. Friends open one's eyes to many perspectives. Having friends from diverse backgrounds has really helped me in dropping judgmental traits and becoming even more empathetic. My personal experiences have also substantially influenced my personal values. The treatment that I receive on various occasions informs me of the best values in life. Through my personal experience, I have learnt that people behave differently, and all need to be embraced.

Impact of the Personal Values in the Social Work Role

Personal values form a firm foundation in the social work profession. A successful career in social work demands adequate personal conviction that social work is indeed the path that one wants to take (Giurgiu & Marica, 2013). This conviction is informed by the individual's personal values. Some personal values may be inconsistent with social work hence inhibiting service. My personal values are in harmony with social work and will definitely boost my service. My values complement those that are listed in most social work organizations. These values will help me to relate better with colleagues and clients. They will enable me to establish and maintain a reputable practice in social work founded on humanity and the varied human needs.

Reflect on the AASW code of ethics as a guide for ethical professional practice – how do these ethical positions fit with your personal values?

AASW Code of Ethics

The AASW Code of ethics dictates integral values and responsibilities to be adhered by all Australian health workers. The code is meant to help social workers to behave in appropriate ways in the delivery of their professional services. The code underpins personal values such as professional integrity, respect for people and accordance of justice. Generally, social work practice should be characterized by high levels of social justice and adherence to human rights. Social workers should facilitate the empowerment of the marginalized/vulnerable and elimination of violations against their rights (AASW, 2013). Social workers are expected to not only identify strictures that harbour inequalities but also advocate for change. They should aim at challenging all the institutionalized practices and policies which do not meet the set standards of human rights, development and inclusion.

Social workers have a range of ethical responsibilities to fulfil in the partaking of their duties. AASW (2010), outlines the major responsibilities that a social worker should perform. These responsibilities are respect for human dignity, maintain professional relationships, ensure competence and commitment to work, uphold cultural competence, safety and sensitive practices, maintain social propriety, advocate for social justice and human rights and prioritize client needs. All these ethical responsibilities aid in the achievement of the set social work goals.

During their practice, social workers often encounter ethical dilemmas. The AASW Code of Ethics requires that social workers should manage these dilemmas properly. Social workers should, therefore, develop critical skills that will help in handling these dilemmas. These skills will help in assessing the dilemmas and responding to them in accordance with what is dictated in the ethics code of conduct (AASW, 2013). AASW encourages collaboration of social workers in the handling of ethical dilemmas. Ethical dilemmas are sensitive matters that are capable of breeding a crisis if not well-handled. Consulting among other social workers is critical in ensuring that the made decisions do not contravene the outlined ethical principles. Issues which are more complex, according to AASW code of ethics should be handled under the supervision of a manager. On less complex matters, it is always necessary to brief the manager on the course of action before the implementation of the made decisions (AASW, 2013). Such helps in eliminating mistakes and ensuring that only the most favourable solutions are implemented. The management of ethical dilemmas is among the most complex issues in social work as it has a major influence on the reputation on the entire social work fraternity. Unethical choices may lead to extensive questioning of the legitimacy of the practice.

Reflect on the statement ‘Unconditional positive regard for the other is a core ethical position for professional social work practice’. What challenges might this ethical position engender?

AASW Code of Ethics in Ethical Professional Practice

The AASW Code of Ethics acts as a guideline to all professional social workers. Social workers are supposed to act in an ethically appropriate manner that does not allow questioning. The code guides the professionals on what is appropriate and what ought not to be done. Ideally, social work organizations have a picture that they want to create in societies that they operate in. This picture is created by compliance with the code of ethics. The code of ethics outlines what should be done in particular circumstances. It is much easier to handle an ethical dilemma with a code of ethics. In social work practice, professionals may hold different views on what should be done. An ethical code clarifies on the path that should be taken to ensure that ethics are observed (Bell, 2018). It dictates to the professional the general responsibilities of a social worker, the responsibilities to the client as well as the responsibilities to colleagues. The code of ethics also aids in ruling out unethical behaviour among social work practitioners.

AASW Code of Ethics and Personal Values

Upon entry into the social work profession, one has a wide range of values to learn. The values may be closely linked to the personal values that one already has or totally different. Differences in the ethics of a profession and personal values result in major conflicts/tensions and collusions. This results in ineffective practice, especially if a person does not adjust or harmonize their values with those of the social work profession. The tensions in values explain why some people may not last for long in the social work profession. Values are somewhat problematic, and their definition is fluid. As a result, what a person considers worthwhile might not be of value to the organization. Professional values, on most occasions, differ highly from personal values. Professional values are embedded in a code of ethics and compel any social worker to commit to them and engage in practices that safeguard the interests of the clients.

I feel that my personal values are to a greater extent, consistent with the AASW Code of Ethics. However, I still feel that I may have to adjust significantly to ensure that I fit well within my profession.  I am aware that the AASW Code of Ethics demands service, social justice, integrity and respect for all humans and my values are in agreement with these values. Since I have always known that I will be a social worker, I have been cultivating my values to ensure that they do not cause any tensions with the AASW code of ethics. I believe in social justice and human dignity. I hold the view that all people should be treated equally regardless of their backgrounds. Rights should not be treated as privileges to a section of populations while they are granted freely to the other sections of the population (Banks, 2016). Having had diverse relationships, I have learnt to be highly accommodative for all cultures and backgrounds (AASW, 2020). Cultural sensitivity in the social work profession helps in eliminating any possible judgments that may mitigate the effectiveness of service. On the issue of competence, I believe that I can satisfactorily participate in various divisions of social work. However, due to the lack of much experience, I cannot claim to know everything in the profession. I am open to consulting colleagues on issues that I feel unsure about. Failure to maintain professional boundaries is an ethical responsibility that has led to the removal of many social workers. I have learnt various skills, particularly in communication and critical thinking that will help me in maintaining professional conduct.

Discussion

On the contrary, I feel that I have much to adjust concerning speaking against social injustices and the violation of human rights.  Success in a social work profession requires one to be proactive in challenging policies and institutions that violate social justice and human rights. At my capacity, I have learnt much of speaking with the clients and helping them either physically or emotionally. I will need to work more on my ability to speak up against injustice to fit into the code of ethics as per AASW properly.

'Unconditional positive regard for the other is a core ethical position for professional social work practice'.

Unconditional positive regard (UPR) was first used by Carl Rogers- a humanist psychologist (Griffiths & Griffiths, 2013). It is used to describe a technique in social work that puts the client at the centre of the service. UPR requires a social worker to offer complete support to the client regardless of what they say or do. In the approach, social workers are encouraged to desist from placing conditions or demands on their clients and are supposed to embrace them the way they are. UPR discourages the placing requirements for a certain service to be offered. A closer look in UPR for the other person entails serving a client in a manner that disregards all possessive desires of the social worker. As such, in the service, the worker only seeks to satisfy the needs of the client, which at times could be at the expense of the social worker's needs. This way, clients are allowed to think and act independently without any influence. UPR helps social workers to establish better relationships with their clients, enhancing their ability even to serve them better.

An example of UPR for the other person could be given in relation to the dismissal of children from care homes. Normally, once children attain the age of 18 years, they are absorbed back into the society to give room for other needy children. At the age of 18, they are believed to have reached adulthood and hence able to provide and take of themselves. However, not everyone is usually willing to move out even after hitting 18. Despite the support that they have received at the care home, the young adults may feel inadequate and thus unable to live by their own. In such cases, UPR implies that young adults should be left to live in the care home for as long as they want. In this case, the interests of the social workers to bring in other children are dropped to serve the needs of the client who wants to stay in the home for much longer. This practice helps people feel more accepted and confident about themselves. However, Rogers argues that it could also lead to incongruence. People who experience incongruence in life have a very limited overlap between their view of the ideal self and their real-life experiences.

Social Work and Ethical Awareness

Challenges Engendered by the Ethical position

The practice of UPR is quite challenging and may not be applicable in all situations. Researchers have implied that the practice is only fully applicable to close relations. UPR could, at times, be overburdening to a social worker. UPR is largely dependent on the depth of a relationship. If it is not founded on a deep relationship, it leads to the exploitation of one party (Murphy, Duggan, & Joseph, 2013). In social work, there are various interests to be considered apart from those of a social worker. Upholding UPR disadvantages the other clients who might be in need of similar services. For instance, in the example given above, other needy children may be unable to access vital services if the young adults are allowed to leave only at their own will. UPR is a vital practice in the social work sector. However, there is a dire need to put boundaries on its scope of application.

Conclusion

Social work is a vital component in all societies that helps in acquiring some level of social justice for the marginalized and vulnerable people in society. A career in the field requires the acquisition and maintenance of desirable personal values that help in maintaining effective service. Apart from the personal values, an individual is also required to work under a code of ethics majorly formulated at the international, national and organizational level. It is pertinent to ensure congruence between the personal values and the code of ethics. Maintaining congruence is usually challenging not only for the young social workers but also for the experienced social workers. Ethical positions that require the application of UPR for the other person are even more challenging to work under. Despite the benefits presented by UPR in social work, it is capable of reaping the social workers their freedom as well as disadvantaging the other clients. Thus, a clear line needs to be drawn to indicate what is practical and what is not achievable while practising under UPR.

References

AASW. (2013). Australian Association of Social Workers: Practice Standards. Canberra City: Australian Association of Social Workers 2013.

AASW. (2020). Code of Ethics. Canberra: Australian Association of Social Worker.

Banks, S. (2016). Everyday ethics in professional life: social work as ethics work. Ethics and Social Welfare, 10(1), 35-52.

Bell, J. (2018). Values and Ethics. In J. Lishman, Social Work (pp. 3-18). Sage.

Chechak, D. (2015). Social Work as a Value-Based Profession: Value Conflicts and Implications for Practitioners' Self-Concepts. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 12(2), 41-48.

Gelmez, Ö. S., Hatiboglu, B., & Öngen, Ç. (2019). Pathways from Personal towards Professional Values: Structured Small-Group Work with Social Work Students. Education as Change, 23(25), 1-25.

Giurgiu, L. R., & Marica, M. A. (2013). Professional Values in Social Work Students and Mid-career Practitioners: A Comparative Study. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 76, 372 – 377.

Griffiths, L. J., & Griffiths, C. A. (2013). Unconditional Positive Self-Regard (UPSR) and Self-Compassion, the Internal Consistency and Convergent/Divergent Validity of Patterson & Joseph's UPSR Scale. Open Journal of Medical Psychology, 2, 168-174.

Murphy, D., Duggan, M., & Joseph, S. (2013). Relationship-Based Social Work and Its Compatibility with the Person-Centred Approach: Principled versus Instrumental Perspectives. The British Journal of Social Work, 43(4), 703–719.

Prinsloo, R. C. (2014). Social Work Values and Principles: Students' Experiences Intervention with Children and Youths in Detention. Journal of Social Work Practice, 28(4), 445-460.

Rai, T. S., & Holyoak, K. J. (2013). Exposure to moral relativism compromises moral behaviour. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 995-1001.

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