The social work profession is guided by a distinct set of abstract values and a Code of Ethics. These values are transformed into accepted practice principles for the purpose of informing our intervention with clients. What follows is a listing of nine Social Work Principles and brief description of each.
Acceptance - Acceptance is a fundamental social work principle that implies a sincere understanding of clients. Acceptance is conveyed in the professional relationship through the expression of genuine concern, receptive listening, intentional responses that acknowledge the other person's point of view, and the creation of a climate of mutual respect.
Affirming Individuality - To affirm a client's individuality is to recognize and appreciate the unique qualities of that client. It means to "begin where the client is." Clients expect personalized understanding and undivided attention from professionals. Individualization requires freedom from bias and prejudice, an avoidance of labeling and stereotyping, a recognition and appreciation of diversity, and knowledge of human behavior.
Purposeful Expression of Feelings - Clients need to have opportunities to express their feelings freely to the social worker. As social workers, we must go beyond "just the facts" to uncover the underlying feelings.
Non-judgmentalism - Communicating non-judgmentalism is essential to developing a relationship with any client. It does not imply that social workers do not make decisions; rather it implies a non blaming attitude and behavior. Social workers judge others as neither good or bad nor as worthy or unworthy.
Objectivity - Closely related to non-judgmentalism, objectivity is the principle of examining situations without bias. To be objective in their observations and understanding, social workers must avoid injecting personal feelings and prejudices in relationships with clients.
Controlled Emotional Involvement - There are three components to a controlled emotional response to a client's situation: sensitivity to expressed or unexpressed feelings, and understanding based on knowledge of human behavior, and a response guided by knowledge and purpose. The social worker should not respond in a way that conveys coldness or lack of interest while at the same time cannot over identify with the client.
Self -Determination - The principle of self-determination is
based on the recognition of the right and need of clients to freedom
in making their own choices and decisions. Social workers have a
responsibility to create a working relationship in which choice can be
Access to Resources - Social workers are implored to assure that everyone has the necessary resources, services, and opportunities; to pay attention to expanding choices, and opportunities for the oppressed and disadvantages; and to advocate for policy and legislative changes that improve social conditions and promote social justice.
Confidentiality - Confidentiality or the right to privacy implies that clients must give expressed consent before information such as their identity, the content of discussions held with them, one's professional opinion about them, or their record is disclosed.
Summarized from: DuBois, B. & Miley, K.K. (1992). Social Work: An Empowering Profession, Boston: Allyn and Bacon, pp. 135-141.