Confidentiality of client communications is one of the ethical foundations of the social work profession and has become a legal obligation in most states. Many problems arise in the application of the principles of confidentiality and privilege to the professional services provided by social workers. This entry discusses the concepts of client confidentiality and privileged communications and outlines some of the applicable exceptions. While the general concept of confidentiality applies in many interactions between social workers and clients, the application of confidentiality and privilege laws are particularly key to the practice of clinical social workers in various practice settings.
Carolyn I. Polowy, Sherri Morgan, W. Dwight Bailey, and Carol Gorenberg
Samuel S. David, Priscilla Gibson, and Patience Togo Malm
Language mediates every aspect of social work, and the ability to communicate effectively with and about clients is a paramount responsibility that rests with the social worker. This responsibility extends to clients who do not speak, understand, read, or write fluently in the dominant language, either because they speak other languages or because of communication-related disabilities. This category may include individuals with learning disabilities, speech disorders, aphasia, autism spectrum disorders, specific language impairment, and physical impairments that impact language production, among other conditions. Primary concerns include disparities in access to services; the need for training on working with interdisciplinary teams; minimizing bias, micro-aggressions, and stereotyping; and issues related to translation, interpretation, and intercultural communication. In addition to these concerns, linguistically diverse populations are often excluded from research, resulting in gaps in knowledge about their needs. Service accommodations for language minorities tend to focus on translation and interpretation; however, research suggests that social workers also need to understand and guard against unconscious bias, and learn to use affirmative language to support the well-being of clients rather than pathologizing them. Clients with communication disabilities, on the other hand, may have distinct or overlapping needs, and service organizations rarely address the language support needs of these two populations within one unified framework. Service providers may waste precious time and effort navigating multiple, overlapping policy directives. Information on the policy context in the United States and the European Union related to language rights and language access provides a background for this topic.
Information technology (IT), which encompasses tools and prescribed actions, has begun to substantially impact social work, given 50 years of impressive developments. This entry looks at IT trends and their impact on society and social work. The trends covered concern rapid IT development, connectivity, globalization and outsourcing, intelligent applications and devices, centralization and distribution of power and control, and distance education. Issues and challenges for social work are also discussed.
Conflict resolution is a core competency for social workers, and social workers have contributed greatly to this thriving field. Conflict resolution as a field of practice includes mediation, facilitation, conflict coaching, dispute system design and management, and arbitration. Conflict professionals provide preventative, restorative, substantive, procedural, and decision-making services to people in conflict. The use of conflict resolution processes is rapidly growing in areas of traditional social work practice such as child welfare, special education, family counseling, care of the elderly, and medical care. This is a tremendous potential growth area for social work.
Mary Pender Greene
Sociologists and social workers have long been invested in understanding the role of communities in shaping identities and influencing behavior; however, the study of virtual communities is still new despite the dramatic ways in which online social networks have replaced traditional, geographically bound conceptions of community. The present article briefly reviews some of the early theories of community that have influenced practically all scholars studying computer-mediated virtual communities. The focus then shifts toward an analysis of early, important theorists focusing on virtual communities. The article concludes by examining contemporary research and practices utilizing virtual communities in social work, with a particular emphasis on ways to integrate virtual communities into professional practice.
Michele Baldwin and Froma Walsh
Virginia Satir (1916–1988) helped develop the basic principles of human interaction and communication that guide the practice of family therapy. She was a leading force in the human growth potential movement and director of training at the Esalen Institute.
David A. Patterson
Social workers across fields of practice now have a wide array of technology tools and applications for the conduct and augmentation of practice tasks. This entry is intended as a primer on information and communication technology computer hardware tools and software programs. It describes the essential features and practice utility of an array of information and communication technology hardware, including desktop and laptop computers, tablet computers, and smartphones. Software applications are described with a focus on their social work practice functionality in the capture or retrieval, analysis or synthesis, and presentation or dissemination of information. Described are many emerging Web-based applications with noteworthy practice significance.