Principles of Social work practice


Social work is a human service profession wherein practitioners have to work closely with their clients, therefore in order to provide best experience to both, the practitioners must follow certain principles which are derived from the value base of respect for human dignity and worth of individuals. 

These principles provide a guideline for practice especially when  dealing with individual clients. Following are the basic principles of social work which needs to be followed:

Principle of Acceptance

This principle calls for acceptance of the client by the social work practitioner and vice versa. The social worker has to accept the client as a person/ people with problems having their own limitations and capabilities. The social worker has to accept the client as an entity of a larger social system within which it functions and is confronted with problems. By accepting the client the social worker respects the client’s perspective and viewpoint and does not try to impose his/her viewpoint. The client also needs to accept and trust the social workers as an agent in their empowering process.


A client comes to the social worker with family problems and in the course of initial discussion the worker finds out that the client is a drug addict. In this situation the social worker may feel that the client’s addiction is something undesirable and may be the cause of his family issues but the worker has to accept the client as he is and should not impose his viewpoint on the client. The worker can in the due course of discussions ask the client to consider his addiction as a cause of his problems and leave it to the client to consider it. If the client does not think it is an issue then the worker should not raise this point. In this way the worker is respecting clients dignity and worth hence following the principle of acceptance. 

Principle of Client right to Self-Determination

This principle calls for the clients right to take decisions for the solution of the problem and not be imposed by the social worker. The social worker acts like a facilitator to guide the client in taking decisions for problem solving. This principle draws from the social work value that every individual has the capacity to change and can change. 


A social worker is working with a client having problems at his workplace. The social worker works with the client to see through his/her problem and encourage the client to make decisions for the solution rather than telling the client what to do. 

Principle of Individualisation

This principle requires that the social worker recognizes client as a unique entity having specific capabilities and limitations. The worker should not compare one client with the other and be cognizant of the fact that one course of action might not work for every client. The worker has to understand the client in its surroundings and derive a specific course of action for each client. 


The social worker might be working with two individual clients having family issues. Both of the clients may be having problems with their in-laws. The worker has to understand that each of them will work on their problem solving in their own unique way and the worker has to identify their potential and help them realise their capacities. 

Principle of Non-judgemental attitude

This principle is based on the social work value of inherent dignity and worth of an individual. The worker should refrain from judging the client as right or wrong, weak or strong etc. A social worker might be having his/her own personal and cultural values based on their socialization process. By practicing nonjudgmental attitude the social worker does not let his/her personal bias interfere in the process of problem solving. Following this principle also helps the social worker to practice the principle of acceptance. 


The social worker might get to a client who has been convicted in a criminal offence. While working with this client the social worker should refrain from perceiving the client as right or wrong rather than see the client as an individual with a problem and the social worker as a facilitator to help the client overcome their problem. 

Principle of Purposeful expression of feelings

The relationship of the worker with the client is based on mutual trust wherein the client expresses all it’s concerns and feelings with the worker. In the process the client may express certain feelings which might not be in line with the purpose for which the client and worker have come together. By following this principle the social worker ensures that the conversation and expression of feelings revolves around problem solving and not unrelated topics. 


A client comes to the social worker having a problem in her family. While discussing her problem she might express her negative feelings towards her family member. The worker should let her express this feeling. But during the course of the problem  solving process if she discusses or expresses any feeling towards a person in her neighborhood who might not be associated in any way with her problem, then the worker has to intervene and refrain the client from such discussions. 

Principle of Controlled Emotional Involvement

It’s human nature to feel some kind of emotions while listening to somebody’s problem. While dealing with the client the worker may feel certain emotions for the client but the worker has to keep his/her emotions under control and not let it influence the professional practice. The worker should feel empathy for the client but not show sympathy for the client.


If a client starts crying while sharing his problem the social worker should let the client express his/her feelings but should not sympathise with the client or feel sorry for him/her. Instead the worker should have empathy for the client and understand the client’s situation. 

Principle of Confidentiality

This principle is the most crucial in the client worker relationship. The social worker has to keep the information given by the client confidential and not share with anybody. Infact the social worker has to assure the client in the beginning that whatever information they are sharing would be between the client and the worker and would not be shared with any third party. If required the worker first needs to take consent of the client. However, in certain cases if the social worker comes across an information which might pose any type of danger to anybody then the worker has the liberty to share such information. 


A client may be seeking help for family issues and builds trust towards the worker. However, if at some point the client shares with the worker that he is going to murder a family member then in such case the worker can breach confidentiality.


By now you might have understood the basic guiding principles to be followed while practicing social work. These principles provide for a better client worker relationship and professional practice.

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