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Runninghead:MORALREASONINGVALUESPAPER

MoralReasoningValuesPaper
AlyssaDannhausen
August1,2015
WayneStateUniversity
SW3410
DY7028

MORAL REASONING PAPER

Eachindividualhashisorherownwayofthinking.Thewayweperceivethingsand/or
ourjudgment/reasoningisbasedoffofourmoralswehavebeentaughtinsociety.Barsky(2010)
explainsKohlbergsdevelopmentofmoralreasoning.Kohlbergsdevelopmentofmoral
reasoningoccursinthreestages:preconventionalreasoning,conventionalreasoning,andpost
conventionalreasoning.Asanindividualgoesthrougheachstage,startingintheirchildhood,
theyachievethenextbyobtainingcertainlevelsormoralreasoning.Preconventionalreasoning
allowstheindividualtofocusonhisorherownbenefits,i.e.whatisinitforme?(Barsky,
2010,pp.49).Kohlbergssecondlevel,conventionalreasoning,isbasedoffofwhatothersview
andexpect,andthisiscontinuedthroughadulthood(Barsky,2010,pp.51).Inthiscontext,for
example,anadolescentmaydosomethinghe/shemightnotusuallydosotheirpeerscanaccept
them.ThelaststageinKohlbergstheoryispostconventionalreasoning.Inthisstagethe
individualisstartstofocusbackontheirselvesbuttheydosoinamaturemanner.Whenmaking
decisionstheindividualsinthisstagenormaltakeintoaccountiftheiractionswouldaffect
someoneelseorifitisbreakingthelaw.
Asmentionedbefore,moralsareconceptionsthatarelabeledrightorwrongbehaviors
andaredeterminedbyoursociety.Amorallywrongbehaviorwouldbetellingalietoanother
person.Ethics,ontheotherhand,areconceptionsoftherightorwrongbehaviors,butspecific
groupswithspecificroleslabelthemor.IntheUnitedStates,anethicallywrongbehaviorwould
bespousalabuse,whereasanothercountermightcondoneahusbandtohithiswifefornot
listening.Dependingonwhereanindividualisraisedandtaughtbehaviorswilldeterminehowto

MORAL REASONING PAPER

behaveandreact.Apersonsmoraljudgmentmaygoalongwiththeirethicaljudgmentbutthere
isapossibilitythatitcouldcontradictit.
Whenpresentedwithaparticularsituationthatrequiresanindividualtodeterminewhat
therightorwrongactiontotakeiscalledmoralreasoningormoraldecisionmaking(Barsky,
2010,pp.53).Moralreasoningisaffectednojustbyoursociety(social)butalsoour
psychologicalbackgroundandourspiritual.Whenexaminingethicaldecisionmaking,our
decisionswillbebasedoffofourgroupslistofideasorbeliefs.Asasocialworkerweare
prescribealistofethicsbytheNASWandweareexpectedtofollowthemevenifweare
morallyagainsttheidea.ForexamplewhenaclientcomesinwhoasabusehiswifeIwouldbe
angrybecausemymoralstellmethatiswrong,howeverasasocialworkeritismydutyto
providehimservicewithoutjudgment.
Associalworkersweareexpectedtounderstandandknowthedifferencebetweenmoral
andethicaldecisionmaking.Theimportanceofunderstandingthedifferenceisbecauseitwill
helpusgiveourclient(s)thebestcare.Ifweknowthatweareagainstsomethingbutourcodeof
ethicsistellingustobeforit,wehavetounderstandthatwecannotletourmoralsdictateour
judgment.
InmypersonalandprofessionalImayfeelconflictingemotionsaboutsituationsor
clients.Forexample,usingtheabovesituation,Ihaveaclientwhohassoughtouthelped
becauseheabuseshiswife.InmypersonallifeIbelievethisisaterriblecrimeandthereisno
reasonanyoneneedstoharmtheirsignificantother,regardlessofthesituation.PsychologicallyI
knowthatthisiswrong,itisexactlywhatIhavebeentaughtanditinfuriatesme.Sociallythis
typeofbehaviorisnotaccepted.WhentreatingthispatientIcannotallowthesefeelingsand

MORAL REASONING PAPER

emotionscometosurfacebecauseitcouldimpactmywayoftreatingtheclient.Ethically,inmy
professionandwithinmyagency,Iamtoprovidemyclientswithaservicethatisfreeof
discriminationorjudgmentandIcannotbebiased.Sohowdoesonereactinthissituation?I
knowmypassionanditlieswithhelpingpeoplesoIknowthatbecauseethicallyIam
responsiblefortreatingthispatientIcannotallowanyotheremotionorwayofthinkingdictate
anythingotherthanwhatmyclientdeservesfromme;greatservice.
Beingasocialworkergivesusagreatdealofresponsibilitytoourclientsandoursociety.
Duringoureducationwearetaughtourcodeofethicsandthatweareexpectedtofollowthem.
Ouragencymayhavemorepoliciesandrulesthatweareexpectedtofollowandweunderstand
that.Whenwemakedecisionsbasedonourethics,itmakesourchoicesvalidbecauseweare
socialworkers.Itisourdutytoprovidetheseservicesregardlessofwhotheclientisand
regardlessofhowwefeel.
Therearemanyinfluencesinourlivesthatcandetermineourdecisionmaking,ethically
andmorally.MorallyIhavebeentaughtthatyoudonotlie,youdonotcheat,youdonotbreak
thelawandthatyouarerespectfultoeverypersonyoumeet,howeverifsomeoneisrudetome
ortreatsmedisrespectfullyIdonothavetoacceptthat.Ifafamilymemberwasbreakingthelaw
andIknewaboutit,ImaythinktwicebeforereportingitbecauseIcaredeeplyforthatperson
anditwouldupsetmetoseethemgetintrouble.InthatsamesituationifIhaveaclientwhois
breakingthelaw,ethicallyIhavetoreportitandIwouldnotthinktwiceaboutit.
In2002thereasanarticlepublishedbySocialWorkToday,byFredericG.Reamer,
MakingDifficultDecisions.Inthisarticlethesocialworkersclientlostherbattlewithdrugsand
depression.Theparentsfeltcompelledtodiscussitwiththesocialworkerandaskedthesocial

MORAL REASONING PAPER

workertogivetheeulogyatthefuneral.Shefelthonoredtobeaskedbuttherewasaconcern,
theirdaughtersconfidentialityandthepromisetokeepit.Thearticlegavegreattipsonhowto
addressanethicaldilemma.Reamer(2002)wrote1.Identifytheethicalissues,includingthe
socialworkvaluesandethicsthatconflict.
2.Identifytheindividuals,groups,andorganizationsthatarelikelytobeaffectedbythe
ethicaldecision.
3.Tentativelyidentifyallpossiblecoursesofactionandtheparticipantsinvolvedineach,
alongwithpossiblebenefitsandrisksforeach.
4.Thoroughlyexaminethereasonsinfavorofandopposedtoeachpossiblecourseof
action,consideringrelevant(a)ethicaltheories,principles,andguidelines;(b)codesofethics
andlegalprinciples;(c)socialworkpracticetheoryandprinciples;and(d)personalvalues
(includingreligious,cultural,andethnicvaluesandpoliticalideology).
5.Consultwithcolleaguesandappropriateexperts(suchasagencystaff,supervisors,
agencyadministrators,attorneys,ethicsscholars,andethicscommittees).
6.Makethedecisionanddocumentthedecisionmakingprocess.
7.Monitor,evaluate,anddocumentthedecision.
Thislistgivesinsightashowtocrossthebridgeofethicaldilemmas.Thelaststepinany
dilemmaprocessistoresolvetheconflict.IfIwasintheabovementionedsituation,asthesocial
workerIwouldhavetosaythatIwasabsolutelyhonoredthattheyaskedmetowritetheeulogy
butbecauseofthepromiseImadetotheirdaughtertokeephersessionconfidential,Icouldnot
participateinthefuneralandhopetheycouldunderstand.

MORAL REASONING PAPER

TheNASWhasprescribedasetofvalues,principlesandstandardstoguidesocial
workersconducts.Theremaybesituationsthatwillforceustorecallthelistofvalues,
standards,andprinciplesinordertoprovideforourclientswellbeing.Therearecurrentlysix
values:service,socialjustice,dignityandworthofaperson,importanceofhumanrelationships,
integrity,andcompetence,aswellasmanystandards.
Ifaclientcomesintotheagencyandhasmadeadecisionthatbelieveisnotmorally
correct,butisstilllegal,suchastheirdecisiontostoptakingtheirmedicationswithouttheir
doctorsconsent,toleavemedicaltreatmentwithoutconsent,toterminatetheirpregnancy,orto
lietotheiremployer,Iwouldhavetoreactethically.InthiscaseIcannottellmyclientthatheor
sheiswrongforwantinganyofthis.TheNASWhasprovidedthevaluedignityandworthofa
person,whichmeansasasocialworkerIhavetorespectthedignityandworthoftheperson.If
myclienthasmadetheirdecision,anditisnotillegal,Icannotcondemnthemforit(NASW,
2010).AsthesocialworkerIcantryandenhancetheircapacityandIhavetheopportunityto
changeandaddresstheirneeds,inhopesoftheclientchangingtheirmind(NASW,2010).
TherewillbemanysituationswhereIhaveaclientthatisofdifferentethnicityor
backgroundasmeandIwillhavetoconductoursessionsandtreatmentaccordingtotheir
ethnicity,religion,andracialbackground.Imaynotbeknowledgeableabouttheirbackground
withleadsmetotheNASWvaluesofcompetenceanddignityandworthofaperson.Asasocial
workerIhavetobecompetentinmyareaoftheprofessionandkeepuptodatewithmyskills
(NASW,2010).IfIamnotcompetentonacertainnationalityorreligionitismydutytoeducate
myselfinordertoproperlytreatmyclient.Inregardstothevaluedignityandworthaperson,
eachoneofmyclientswillbedifferentthanthenext.IcannottreateachcasethesameandI

MORAL REASONING PAPER

havetobemindfuloftheirsituationsanddifferences(NASW,2010).ForexampleifIhavea
clientthatisofIslamicbackgroundandtheroleofthefemaleinthehouseisdifferentthanwhat
Iamusedto(i.e.havinglimitedroleinhousehold)thanIwouldhavetotakethatinto
considerationformyclient.Iwillhavetorespectallofmyclientsdifferencesandadheretomy
codeofethics.IfIhavetroubleunderstandinginformationthatpertaintotheirnationalityor
religionthanIwillhavetocontactacolleagueinhopesoftheirsuggestions.
Situationswillarisewhereaclientisnotfamiliarorignoresboundariesbetweenthe
clientandthetherapist.InthistypeofsituationstherearestandardsthattheNASWhaveset
forth.Standards1.07(PrivacyandConfidentiality)willpertaintoclientsthataskforinformation
aboutmyfamily,ormyselfincludingmedisclosinginformationinregardstomyselforseeking
informationofanotherclient(NASW2010).Standard1.09(SexualRelationships)pertainstoa
clientseekingsexualrelationswiththeclientandviceversa(NASW2010).Thisstandarddoes
notallowanysexualrelationshipstooccurbetweeneitherparties.Standard1.10(Physical
Contact)deniedphysicalcontactwhenitwillcauseharmtotheclient(NASW2010).Itallows
statesthattherapistmayengageinphysicalcontactonlywhenithasbeendisclosedandhasset
forthaclear,appropriateandculturallysensitiveboundary(NASW,2010).
Intheprofessionofsocialworkerconfidentialityissacred.TheNASWhasastandard,
1.07,whichpertainstoprivacyandconfidentiality.Asocialworkershouldrespecttheclients
righttoprivacy(NASW,2010).Theinformationfromourclientssessionsmaybedisclosed
whenitisappropriateandhastheclientsconsenttoreleaseit.InpersonallifeIamvery
confidentandproudofthefactthatIcankeeptheconfidenceofothers.

MORAL REASONING PAPER

TheremaybeasituationwhereIfeelthattherulesandregulationsinmyagency
contravenethevaluesofthesocialworkprofession.IfthissituationhappensthanIwilluse
standard5.01(integrityoftheprofession)toengageinsocialandpoliticalactiontochangeit
(NASW,2010).ThisstandardstatesthatSocialworkersshouldworktowardsthemaintenance
andpromotionofhighstandardsofpractice.(NASW,2010).ThisstandardalsostatesSocial
workersshouldacttopreventtheunauthorizedandunqualifiedpracticesofsocialworker.
(NASW,2010),allowingustoensurethatclientsarereceivinghonestcare.
Asinanyprofessions,afellowsocialworkermaybeimpairedandunableto
professionallytreathisorherclient.Thestandard2.09(impairmentofcolleagues)givessocial
workersguidanceonconsultingwiththespecificcolleagueontheirimpairmentandassistthem
intakingaction(NASW,2010).Italsoallowsthesocialworkerwithknowledgeofthe
impairmenttocontacttheemployer,agency,NASW,orotherprofessionalorganizationsifthe
colleaguehasnottakenanystepstocorrecttheirimpairment(NASW,2010).Ifthishappens
duringmycareerIwillfollowwhatthestandardsaysandconfrontmycolleague.Ifheorshe
doesnotcorrecttheirimpairmentandisstilltreatingclientsthenIhavetocontacttheir
employer.Itwouldharmhisorherclientsifheorsheistreatingthemwhileimpaired.Ifthere
waseverasituationwhereIwasimpairedatwork,suchhashavingabreakdownfromstressfor
example,IwouldhopeifIdidnotrecognizeitthatacolleaguewouldconfrontmesoIcantake
thestepstocorrectit.
WhileworkingatmyagencyIreceiveanewofferofemploymentatadifferentagency
andtheemployerisaskingthatIstartbytheendoftheweek.TheNASWhasastandard3.09
(commitmenttoemployers)thatstatesSocialworkersgenerallyshouldadheretocommitments

MORAL REASONING PAPER

madebytheemployersorganizations.(NASW,2010).Inthiscase,morallyandethically,I
wouldhavetotellmyfutureemployerthatIhavetogivemycurrentemployertwoweeksnotice.
ThiscouldbeanethicaldilemmabecauseImaybeveryexcitedtostartandtheemployerneeds
merightawaybutImadeacommitmenttomyemployeranditisonlyrighttogivemytwo
weeksnoticetoonlythemtofindareplacement.
Intheprofessionofsocialworkerburnoutsarecommon.Socialworkersareconstantly
stressedbecauseothersarealwaysrelyingonthemforhelp.Asymptomofbeingburntoutisthe
useofinappropriateordisparaginglanguagetodescribeclientsorprovidingcrudeormeanclient
descriptions.Thisisaviolationofthevaluedignityandworthofapersonaswellasstandard
1.12(derogatorylanguage).Withindignityandworthofapersonthesocialworkershouldbe
respectfultowardstheclientandthestandard1.12statesthatAsocialworkershouldnotuse
derogatorylanguageintheirwrittenandverbalcommunicationstoorabouttheir
clients.(NASW,2010).Ifasocialworkerisfeelingburntoutmysuggestionwouldbetoask
theirsupervisortolessentheircaseloadforaweekorsotohelpreducetheirstress.
Clientsmaybevoluntaryorinvoluntaryandwillbothneedtohaveaninformedconsent
thatclearlystatesthenatureoftheservicestheclientisreceivingandtheextentoftheirrightsto
refuseservice(NASW,2010).Allclientsneedtobeawareoftheservices,guidelines,their
goals,andexpectations.Ifthecaseiswithaminor,age6forexample,heorshewouldnotbe
abletoreceiveorgivetheirinformedconsent,whichwouldtheninvolveaparentorguardian.In
thecaseofachildwelfarecasethesocialworkerneedstousehisorherowndiscretionwhen
involvingmembersoffamily,especiallywhentheminorisolder.

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Reference
SocialWorkToday,EyeonEthics,MakingDifficultDecisions.(2012,October14).Retrieved
fromhttp://www.socialworktoday.com/news/eoe_101402.shtml
National Association of Social Workers, Code of Ethics. (2008). Retrieved from
http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp
Barsky,A.(2010).Ethicsandvaluesinsocialworkanintegratedapproachforacomprehensive
curriculum(p.49,51,53).Oxford:OxfordUniversityPress.