Impaired Professionals

Frederic G. Reamer

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:
Impaired Professionals


In recent years, various professions—such as social work, medicine, nursing, law, and psychology—have paid increased attention to the problem of impaired practitioners. Impairment may involve failure to provide competent care or violation of a profession’s ethical standards. It may take such forms as providing flawed or inferior services to a client, sexual involvement with a client, or failure to carry out one’s duties as a result of substance abuse or mental illness. Strategies for dealing with professionals whose work is affected by problems such as substance abuse, mental illness, and emotional stress have become more prevalent and visible. Professional associations and groups of practitioners have convened to examine impairment among colleagues and to organize efforts to address the problem. However, the social work literature contains relatively little discussion of impaired professionals. One can only speculate about why social work generally has paid less attention than have other professions to the problem of impaired practitioners. It is difficult to know whether the magnitude of the problem is smaller in social work than in other professions (and hence attracts less attention), whether there is greater denial of impairment in social work than in other professions, whether social workers have a higher threshold of tolerance for impairment in general (because of its prevalence among clients), or whether social workers simply write and publish less than do members of other professions. One of social work’s admirable hallmarks is its earnest focus on people’s strengths, as opposed to deficits. This, too, may contribute to social workers’ limited research on impaired practitioners. Further, social workers, compared with other groups of professionals, may be less confident about their status as professionals and are reluctant to draw attention to the profession’s limitations and weaknesses. Social workers who are interested in the subject of impairment must consult literature from other human service professions.

Article.  3739 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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