Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Legal & Ethical Issues for Clinical Practice

On Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, Professor of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice Robert G. Madden, LCSW, J.D., led a National Association of Social Workers – CT Chapter (NASW-CT) workshop on legal and ethical issues in social work clinical practice. This is an important topic for our students and current practitioners. Professor Madden works with students to complete preliminary work that helps them understand the legal and ethical obligations before they have a field experience. It’s important for USJ students to be prepared on how to be a mandated reporter of child abuse and neglect, how to write basic documentation so that they’ll be able to be safe and effective as they enter into their internships and when they first go into field work.

“A lot of what I have written and trained about is the intersection of legal and clinical mental health practice communities, to really help social workers understand what the legal system needs from them, how can they best respond, what are the ways in which they need to make sure they are safe with their documentation and management and handling of client records, so they don’t inadvertently expose themselves to complaints against their license or complaints that might eventually involve a lawsuit against them,” Madden explained.

In addition to leading professional training sessions, Madden has served on the Board of Directors, NASW-CT and frequently offers his services pro-bono. He often speaks with social workers seeking guidance about a situation that involves the code of ethics. Madden reflected on the value of his service, saying, “I think it is a good service to my professional community and, in addition, it gives me a lot of practice examples that I can then use in class or trainings to be able to illustrate various points. If people don’t necessarily remember a particular component of the code of ethics, they’ll remember a story about a clinician who had that particular situation and how it was handled.”

Inside and outside of the classroom, Madden makes statutes and regulations that govern the field of social work easy to learn and understand, and he emphasizes the importance of knowing and using the law in practice. He expects that practitioners will, “know the law, follow the law, know the code of ethics, follow the code of ethics, and get supervision so that there’s a process for being able to think through all of the components of the ethical dilemma that will prevent a reactionary response to a situation in the moment.” Whether it’s a school social worker disclosing risk behavior of a teen to a parent or a city social worker working with a hoarder to protect a person’s dignity while also safeguarding individuals in the surrounding areas, a social worker faces issues every day that require a delicate balance of complex legal issues and that’s what keeps Madden and other social workers excited about the profession.

To learn more about USJ’s Social Work and Equitable Community Practice programs, click here.