For many Social Workers, technology is changing the way we engage and serve at risk populations. As our society rapidly evolves in part due to technology, so too must the Social Work profession.
Section 1.04 of the NASW Code of Ethics is related to the Value of Competence. This section cautions Social Workers to practice and only represent themselves as competent within the boundaries of their education, supervised experience, training, and relevant professional experience. Additionally, the Code states when an emerging area of practice (such as CSW) does not have generally recognized standards, Social Workers should be cautious and takes steps to safeguard their clients from maltreatment and harm. The Code further states “Social workers should provide services in substantive areas or use intervention techniques or approaches that are new to them only after engaging in appropriate study, training, consultation, and supervision from people who are competent in those interventions or techniques”.
I fully subscribe to the NASW Code of Ethics; however, I am concerned that very few training programs currently exist for Social Workers interested in CSW. Society is driving the use of online support groups for grief and loss, mobile Apps designed to help reduce anxiety and depression, Social Media platforms aimed at reaching remote audiences and much more. As a result, qualified Social Workers are needed to deliver CSW services to segments of the population that might not otherwise be served. CSW professionals are also needed to address new societal challenges rising from the use and misuse of the Internet, mobile technologies and Social Media. There are several Schools of Social Work, including the University at Buffalo, University of Toronto, and others that offer virtual internship experiences and specialty CSW related elective courses designed to broaden students’ awareness.
I have delivered numerous continuing education (CE) workshops on a variety of topics related to CSW practice and enjoy engaging Social Work educators on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn in order to expand my knowledge in this new area. I also enjoy reading professional Journal articles related to CSW practices and sharing this information with others. It is important for all Social Workers to be aware of practice innovations and to be competent in their area(s) of practice as reflected in the NASW Code of Ethics.
According to a letter dated March 2, 2015 found in the Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice ASWB International Technology Task Force, 2013-2014, “the introduction of technology into social work practice has presented unprecedented opportunity for social workers to practice across jurisdictional boundaries—giving them mobility in ways not imagined before. This in turn has created challenges for social work regulators, whose job it is to ensure no harm comes to the public”. To address these technology related challenges facing the profession, the NASW convened a task force in partnership with the Association of Social Work Boards and the Council on Social Work Education during late 2015. This alliance representing social work education, professional practice and ethics sought to update the Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice introduced in 2005.
I would like to encourage social workers to consider exploring CSW and the use of treatment models rooted in the Internet and Social Media that have been researched and deemed effective in the treatment of mental and physical health challenges. Infusing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) content across the Social Work curriculum may also help prepare Social Workers to address today's issues and those yet to be borne well into the future.
If you are interested in learning more about CSW, consider following these social media accounts and visit the websites below:
@JonathanSinger (Faculty, Loyola University Chicago)
@njysmyth (Dean, University at Buffalo)
@laurelhitchcock (Faculty, University of Alabama at Birmingham)
@melaniesage (Faculty/BSW Program Director, University of North Dakota)
@swhelpercom (SW contemporary magazine)