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The State Education Department and the State Board for Social Work have produced these practice guidelines to provide useful information on good and recommended practices in the profession of social work. While this information is not a substitute for an understanding of the law, rules and regulations governing the practice of social work in New York State (see other parts of this site), it is a useful supplement that reflects common professional practice issues and concerns. These practice guidelines can help Licensed Master Social Workers and Licensed Clinical Social Workers to better understand what might lead to professional practice complaints and to take steps to eliminate or minimize those situations.

These practice guidelines reflect the collective experience of the members of the State Board for Social Work along with input from a variety of sources, including social work organizations and practitioners, social work educators, Office of the Profession's staff, and other State Boards for the Professions.

Practice guidelines provide licensees with general guidance to promote good practice and prevent instances of professional misconduct 1. They can also benefit licensees and consumers by broadening their understanding of the law, rules and regulations that define professional practice, including professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct.

Practice guidelines do not have the force of law. While the guidelines may be a resource in understanding good professional conduct in relation to the professional discipline process, they may not be used as the basis for a charge of or a defense against a charge of professional misconduct1. A licensee can only be charged with professional misconduct if there is a violation of the Education Law or Regents Rules. Determinations of which complaints lead to professional misconduct charges are made on a case-by-case basis in accordance with Section 6510 of the Education Law.

For a full understanding of the application of practice guidelines, please review the memorandum regarding the purpose and use of practice guidelines contained at the end of this packet.

Relevant sections of Education Law are available on this site. Part 29 of the Rules of the Board of Regents on Unprofessional Conduct is also available. You may access all New York State Law, such as Public Health Law, Civil Practice Law and Rule, and Insurance Law at

We hope you find these Practice Guidelines useful. If in doubt about the appropriateness of specific practices, you should consult the actual laws, rules or regulations. You may also request a printed copy of these Guidelines. You may direct any questions and comments to the State Board for Social Work, at (518) 474-3817 ext. 450, by e-mail at, or by fax to (518) 486-2981.

1 Practice guidelines are not intended to establish a standard for the evaluation of issues in civil liability lawsuits involving claims of negligence or malpractice. The intent is to provide a frame of reference to be used with other appropriate considerations for assessment of issues relating to professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct as defined by law, rules or regulations.