Eye on Ethics: Balancing Our Professional and Personal Lives

Document Type


Department (Manual Entry)

School of Social Work


Ordinarily, social workers are able to separate their professional and personal lives, as they do not socialize or become friends with clients. On occasion, however, social workers’ professional and personal lives may intersect, often in unexpected ways. As in the two case scenarios, clients may turn up unexpectedly in social workers’ private spheres. Social workers may have little or no control over the possibility that, for example, their clients’ children and a social worker’s child become playmates or friends. A social worker’s spouse and a client’s adult son may work closely together in a local company. Especially in small and rural communities, it may be virtually impossible for social workers to avoid encounters with clients in social settings. The same is true for social workers who are members of a particular ethnic group and also provide social services to that community.