Like all behavioral health professionals, social workers are making increased use of technology to deliver services to clients, communicate with clients, gather information about clients, and educate students and practitioners. The advent of technology—including Internet, text (SMS), email, video, social media and networking, cloud storage, and other forms of digital communication and software—has introduced novel and unprecedented ethical and risk management challenges. These dramatic changes in the ways that social workers use technology have led to major efforts to develop new standards in the profession. These efforts have occurred in three distinct, albeit related, domains: (1) practice standards, (2) regulatory and licensing standards, and (3) code of ethics standards. It is essential that today's social workers be thoroughly familiar with these significant developments to ensure that their practice complies with prevailing standards.
Since 2020 TCI has taught telemental health to over 600 graduate students. These were students of social work, counseling, marriage and family therapy, psychology, or public health who completed the TeleMental Health Training Program. Participating colleges varied greatly–small, large, private, public, urban and rural.
Alabama A&M University is one of the colleges TCI has partnered with for the last two years. In March we completed the TeleMental Health Training Program with a group of 31 master of social work fellows from their Behavioral Health Workforce Training Program (BHWTP). The BHWTP Fellows’ participation in the TeleMental Health Training Program is made possible by generous funding awarded to the MSW Program by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)(MC1HP42067‐01‐00) through its Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program. The purpose of the BHWET Program for Professionals is to develop and expand experiential training opportunities, such as field placements and internships, to improve the distribution and supply of the behavioral health workforce. The development of competencies in the implementation of telemental health is a current and critical skills area in demand across settings in which social workers practice.
When Raymond Barrett first created a telehealth training certificate program in 2014, he believed it was essential to include the ethical and legal standards for social workers, and these standards continue to shape the content of the Telemental Health Training Certificate (THTC) Program today. Some examples are the NASW Code of Ethics, state and federal laws, and best practices for technology-assisted social work. And in addition to these, the THTC Program meets CSWE’s educational and policy accreditation standards.
George Abu Mansaray, a social worker with Ruth's Hope Kindergarten, talks with Ray Barrett about the professional impact he’s making in Sierra Leone. As a small, non-Western country of about 7 million people, George says that a sustainable approach to social work in Sierra Leone should include an “indigenous model” that co-creates community development projects using “local knowledge.” After getting experience working abroad, George returned to Sierra Leone to help communities that were lacking life-sustaining resources, such as schools, health clinics, and safe drinking water.
There are endless benefits to becoming a member of Social Work Societies, including access to important training, community within the field, and the opportunity to be involved in advancing the field at a higher level. In an ever-changing, high-demand field, these organizations are greatly needed. Monica Blauner is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychoanalyst with over 40 years experience in mental health treatment. She is the former president of the California Society of Social Work and currently works at a private practice in Los Angeles.
Recently, Ray Barrett sat down to interview Laura Groshong about the field of social work and the direction in which the field is headed. Laura is a licensed clinical social worker and has been in clinical practice for the past 43 years. She was a registered lobbyist in Washington for five mental health organizations for 25 years. She has been the director of policy and practice for the Clinical Social Work Association nationally since 2006. Laura’s diverse range of experiences allows her to bring a wealth of knowledge to the field. Her passion for social work developed while she was working in the foster care system. She fell in love with the field but decided to pursue the mental health route.
Millions of Americans are impacted by infertility, birth trauma, and reproductive loss. Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with infertility but are less likely to seek treatment, according to Dr. Kristy Christopher-Holloway, director of New Vision Counseling Center, in Douglasville, Georgia, and an expert on the mental health impacts of infertility. In an interview with Raymond Barrett, CEO of the Telehealth Certification Institute, Dr. Christopher-Holloway discussed how telehealth is helping expand her practice in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Christopher-Holloway says about 20% of the U.S. population is impacted by an infertility diagnosis every year. Black women are about 1.5 times more likely to experience the diagnosis of infertility, but they typically will seek help or treatment for the diagnosis at lesser rates.
Her current research includes perinatal mental health and infertility. “We know that this is an under-researched population area, and when there is no research we cannot do an effective treatment.”
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has the perennial responsibility of setting social work standards and ethics. In recent years, technological options for client engagement have flourished, resulting in an explosive demand for new mandates, guidelines, and tech boundaries in the social work field.
The NASW is the largest professional organization dedicated to ethical social work practice. Represented by 130,000 members from 50 US states, they have established safety principles for social workers and their clients. The NASW clinical social work standards are widely cited by students, professionals, and educators to inform their practice behaviors. Though they are the leading member organization, the NASW partners with other social work groups. An example of their partnership is with The Association of Social Work Boards’ (ASWB). The NASW used the ASWB’s 2015 Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice as a partial framework for the 2017 Technology in Social Work Practice Guidelines. The 2017 document represents the most current provisions for the ethical use of technology. In addition to the NASW and ASWB, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA) have contributed to the current technology recommendations for the social work profession. The four collaborative organizations arrived at the 2017 standards after forming the Task Force for Technology Standards in Social Work Practice.