The act of directly representing or defending others. Championing the rights of individuals, groups or communities through direct intervention or through empowerment. It is a basic obligation of the profession and its members.**


1. The process of determining the nature, causes, progression and prognosis of a problem and the personalities and situations involved therein; the function of acquiring an understanding of a problem, what causes it, and what can be changed to minimize or resolve it.**

2. The identification of strengths and capacities and redefinition of problems as needs.*****


“Client”, in relation to a member of the College, refers to any person or body that is the
recipient of, or has contracted to receive, social work services from the member, including an individual, couple, group, family, organization, government agency or community that receives (or contracts to receive) direct or indirect social work services, (as described in the scopes of practice). In social work research, the client may include a participant in that research. In social work education, the client may include a student or supervisee. Clients of members employed by an organization are considered clients of both the member and the organization.**


  1. For social workers, it means: The ability to fulfill the requirements of professional practice. Competence includes possession of all relevant educational and experiential requirements, and the ability to carry out professional duties and achieve goals while adhering to the values and code of ethics of the profession.
  2. Competence for social workers also includes, but is not limited to, having the capacity to understand and act reasonably. **


A principle of ethics according to which the member may not disclose information about a client without the client’s consent. This information includes, but is not limited to, the identity of the client, the content of overt verbalizations or other communications with the client, professional opinions about the client, and material from records relating to or supplied by the client.**

Conflict of Interest

is defined as a situation in which a member has a personal, financial or other professional interest or obligation which gives rise to a reasonable apprehension that the interest or obligation may influence the member in the exercise of his or her professional responsibilities. Actual influence is not required in order for a conflict of interest situation to exist. It is sufficient if there is a reasonable apprehension that there may be such influence. One of the hallmarks of a conflict of interest situation is that a reasonable person, informed of all of the circumstances, would have a reasonable apprehension (in the sense of reasonable expectation or concern) that the interest might influence the member. The influence need not be actual but may simply be perceived. However, a mere possibility or suspicion of influence is not sufficient to give rise to a conflict of interest. The interest must be significant enough to give rise to a “reasonable apprehension” that the personal, financial or other professional interest may influence the member in the performance of his or her professional responsibilities.

Counselling Services

are defined as services provided within the context of a professional relationship with the goal of assisting clients in addressing issues in their lives by such activities as helping clients to find solutions and make choices through exploration of options, identification of strengths and needs, locating information and providing resources, and promoting a variety of coping strategies, but do not include psychotherapy services.


Social Work Diagnosis: A social work diagnosis defines that series of judgments made by a social worker based on social work knowledge and skills in regard to individuals, couples, families and groups.

These judgments:

(a) serve as the basis of actions to be taken or not taken in a case for which the social worker has assumed professional responsibility and

(b) are based on the Social Work Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. Such judgments and the procedures and actions leading from them are matters for which the social worker expects to be accountable.

Dual Relationship

is defined as a situation in which a College member, in addition to his/her professional relationship, has one or more other relationships with the client, regardless of whether this occurs prior to, during, or following the provision of professional services. A dual relationship does not necessarily constitute a conflict of interest; however, where dual relationships exist, there is a strong potential for conflict of interest and there may be an actual or perceived conflict of interest. Relationships beyond the professional one include, but are not limited to, those in which the College member receives a service from the client, the College member has a personal, familial or business relationship with the client, or the College member provides therapy to students, employees or supervisees.


The capacity to help the client achieve, in a reasonable time period, the goals of a given intervention.**


refers to information tending to establish facts. For College members, evidence can include but is not limited to: direct observation; information collected in clinical sessions; collateral information; information from documents and information gathered from the use of clinical tools. (e.g. diagnostic assessment measures, rating scales).

Formal Notice

A written statement concerning a fact that is communicated to the affected person, giving that person an awareness of the fact.*


Coming between groups of people, events, planning activities, or an individual’s internal conflicts.  In social work, the term is analogous to the physician’s term “treatment”. Many social workers prefer using “intervention” because it includes “treatment” and also encompasses the other activities social work members use to solve or prevent problems or achieve goals for social betterment. These could include psychotherapy, advocacy, mediation, social planning, community organization, finding and developing resources.**

Physical Sexual Relations

whether or not initiated by the client, include, but are not limited to, kissing of a sexual nature, touching of breasts or genitals, genital contact, and sexual intercourse.


Registered Social Worker. A member of the College who holds a certificate of registration.


An ethical principle that recognizes the rights and needs of clients to be free to make their own choices and decisions. Inherent in the principle is the requirement for the member to help the client know what the resources and choices are and what the potential consequences of selecting any one of them may be. **


A legal document requiring a person to attend before a court or a tribunal, or at an out-of-court examination, to be examined as a witness in a legal proceeding.*


Social Work Candidate. A member of the College who is completing the candidacy process.


* Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, Henry Campbell Black et al, 1979

** The Social Work Dictionary, 4th Edition, Robert L. Barker, 1999

*** Client Rights in Psychotherapy and Counselling, A Handbook of Client Rights and Therapist Responsibility, Susan Beamish, Michelle Melanson and Marilyn Oladimeji, 1998

**** Ontario Collegeof Social Workers, Guidelines for Social Work Record-Keeping,1999

***** The Strengths Perspective in Social Work, Dennis Saleebey, 1992