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A Time for Moral Courage: Ethical obligations and resilience strategies for therapists in the face of overwork, burnout, moral distress, or disheartenment

  • Friday, January 26, 2024
  • 9:30 AM - 4:00 PM
  • Online ZOOM


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Presenter: Frederic G. Reamer, Ph.D.

Category 1 CEUs: 6.0 (ETHICS CREDIT)

Many say that our profession is not for the weak of heart. During these challenging times, many practitioners complain of their own “heart break”—the emotional distress and psychic injury from the difficult, complex cases we witness and work with every week. Despite our attempt at basic self care, we are experiencing an increase of trauma diagnoses in our clients. We may be contending with a wave of symptoms and emotions in ourselves including secondary stress disorder; sleep dysfunction; physical illness; a sense of demoralization in the form of disheartenment, dejection, or hopelessness; loss of our social work values, burnout, and even despondency. These adverse effects are so common yet debilitating for those in the healing professions right now, that some practitioners will even leave the profession they love. Our presenter Frederic G. Reamer, the social work profession's foremost ethics expert, provides guidance to social workers and related professionals who grapple with these unwanted and unnerving situations and their aftermath. He inspires social workers to advocate for much-needed personal, social and organizational or policy changes to prevent harm. Drawing on decades of firsthand experience, Dr. Reamer helps us to understand the causes of moral distress and how to deal with the symptoms that can manifest; strategies for prevention, self-care, and resilience; and our legal and ethical obligations, including what it means to be a whistleblower. Above all, he shows us how to develop the moral courage that our role requires. Through extensive and relatable case studies, Dr. Reamer illustrates the myriad ethical dilemmas that most social workers will face in their careers and provides practical exercises and actionable solutions. This informative, enlightening, and inspiring workshop is based on his recent book: MORAL DISTRESS AND INJURY IN HUMAN SERVICES: CASES, CAUSES, AND STRATEGIES FOR PREVENTION (2020) and offers us the guidance and fortitude to make the right decisions in hard cases, and the resilience to strengthen ourselves and our profession.

Workshop Objectives:

At the conclusion of this webinar participants will be able to:

  1. Identify challenging ethical issues and dilemmas in clinical social work
  2. Apply practical ethical decision-making frameworks and protocols
  3. Identify ethical issues that pose malpractice and liability risks
  4. Design strategies to protect clients and prevent litigation and licensing board complaints

About the Presenter:

Dr. Frederic Reamer has dedicated his career to reforming the ethics, practice, and education of the social work field through his work as a researcher, an author, and a professor. His extensive experience in ethics research has helped NASW and the social work profession as a whole over the years. Reamer is a professor in the graduate program at the Rhode Island College School of Social Work, where he has taught since 1983. Over the years, his research has focused on a variety of human service issues, ranging from mental health and criminal justice to public welfare and professional ethics. Reamer has been a featured essayist on NPR’s Morning Edition, a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered, and a guest on a variety of radio broadcasts on stations across the country. Starting in 2007, Reamer began as the host and producer of This I Believe – Rhode Island on NPR and Rhode Island Public Radio. He was featured as a commentator in the documentaries “America’s Serial Killers: Portraits of Evil” and “Rampage: Killing without Reason”. Reamer has appeared as an expert on the PBS series This Emotional Life. He has distinguished himself as an expert in the ethical use of technology within social work, and gave the keynote presentation “Managing Social Media and Electronic Communication in Social Work Practice: Ethical and Risk-management Issues” at the 2012 Association of Social Work Boards’ Education Conference, which introduced social work regulators to the ethical, practice and regulatory challenges posed by the quick rise of technology.  

Career Highlights:

Dr. Reamer has previously worked as the Director of the National Juvenile Justice Assessment Center at the US Department of Justice in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention from 1979 to 1981, as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor of Rhode Island from 1987 to 1990, and as a Commissioner of the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation from 1987 to 1995. He served on the Rhode Island Parole Board from 1992 to 2016. Reamer was the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Social Work Education from 1990 to 1994, Associate Editor of the NASW Encyclopedia of Social Work (20th Edition) and is currently an Associate Editor of the Encyclopedia of Social Work Online. He has lectured around the world on professional ethics, professional malpractice, and liability, including presenting at the 2014 NASW National Conference. Reamer has participated in research projects sponsored by many groups including The Hastings Center, the Carnegie Corporation, the Haas Foundation, and the Scattergood Program for the Applied Ethics of Behavioral Healthcare at the Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania. 

Biographic Data: 

Dr. Reamer received his BA in Criminology from the University of Maryland in 1974, his Masters in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago in 1975, and his PhD in Social Work from the University of Chicago in 1978.

Significant Achievements & Awards Received:

Dr. Reamer received the "Distinguished Contributions to Social Work Education" award from the Council on Social Work Education (1995); Presidential Award from the National Association of Social Workers (1997); Richard Lodge Prize from Adelphi University for “outstanding contributions to the development of social work theory” (2005); Edith Abbott Award from the University of Chicago for “distinguished service to society and outstanding contributions at the local, national or international levels” (2005); Neil J. Houston, Jr. Memorial Award for “dedicated service and citizen contribution toward the criminal justice profession and the public interest” (2009); International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award from the National Association of Social Workers for significantly advancing "the public image of social work" (2012), and the Excellence in Ethics Award from the National Association of Social Workers (2015).
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