Professional boundaries: crossing a line or entering the shadows?

DOEL, M., ALLMARK, P. J., CONWAY, P., COWBURN, M., FLYNN, M., NELSON, P. and TOD, A. (2009). Professional boundaries: crossing a line or entering the shadows? British journal of social work, 40 (6), 1866-1889.

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Link to published version:: 10.1093/bjsw/bcp106

Abstract

This article explores the professional boundaries guidance for social workers. It presents research findings from the formal literature, from agency codes of practice, from telephone interviews with regulatory and professional bodies and from an exercise using ‘snowballing techniques’ in which informants responded to brief scenarios illustrating boundary dilemmas. The findings suggest that formal research plays little part in the guidance that individuals use to help them determine professional boundaries. Similarly, only 10–15 per cent of informants made regular reference to regulatory and professional codes of practice, with an even smaller percentage quoting specific sections from these codes. A slightly larger group (15–20 per cent) made fairly regular reference to their agency's policy documents. However, a clear majority relied on their own sense of what is appropriate or inappropriate, and made their judgements with no reference to any formal guidance. Agency guidance tended to ignore the ambiguous areas of practice and seemed to act as an insurance policy, brought out and dusted off when something goes awry. The authors caution against ever-increasing bullet points of advice and prescription, and advance a notion of ethical engagement in which professionals exercise their ethical senses through regular discussion of professional boundary dilemmas.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in the British journal of social work following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version DOEL, M., ALLMARK, P. J., CONWAY, P., COWBURN, M., FLYNN, M., NELSON, P. and TOD, A. (2009). Professional boundaries: crossing a line or entering the shadows? British journal of social work. 40 (6), 1866-1889 is available online at: http://bjsw.oxfordjournals.org.
Uncontrolled Keywords: professional boundaries, professional ethics, code of practice, professional relationship, practice dilemmas
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Hallam Centre for Community Justice
Learning and Information Services
Centre for Health and Social Care Research
Identification Number: 10.1093/bjsw/bcp106
Depositing User: Caroline Fixter
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2010 10:40
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2011 00:18
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/1371

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