Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the Encyclopedia of Social Work, accessed online. (c) National Association of Social Workers and Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the applicable license agreement governing use of the Encyclopedia of Social Work accessed online, an authorized individual user may print out a PDF of a single article for personal use, only (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 29 October 2020

Social Work Malpractice, Liability, and Risk Managementlocked

  • Frederic G. ReamerFrederic G. ReamerRhode Island College


Social workers have become increasingly aware of malpractice and liability risks. Disgruntled clients, former clients, and others may file formal ethics complaints and lawsuits against practitioners. Complaints often allege that social workers departed from widely embraced ethical and social work practice standards. This article provides an overview of the concept of risk management and common risks in social work practice pertaining to clients’ rights, confidentiality and privacy, informed consent, conflicts of interest, boundaries and dual relationships, digital and electronic technology, documentation, and termination of services, among others. The author describes procedures used to process ethics complaints, licensing-board complaints, and lawsuits. In addition, the author outlines practical strategies, including an ethics audit, designed to protect clients, third parties, and social workers.


  • Practical Ethics
  • Occupations, Professions, and Work

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription