Did You Know That NASW Added Self-Care to the Code of Ethics in 2021?



“Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day.” (Everyday Health)

  • Self-care isn’t selfish
  • Self-care isn’t an occasional treat
  • Self-care isn’t optional

Self-care has gotten a lot of attention as we have collectively struggled with anxiety and depression and are no longer remaining quiet about it. One example is September being designated Self-Care Awareness Month. I absolutely believe that this is a good thing.

I don’t recall having conversations about self-care in my MSW classes or specifically during my internships. I stress the importance of self-care to my students one of their assignments includes developing a self-care plan. I also know that many Schools of Social Work now also include self-care in the curricula. As a leader who has experienced professional burnout and compassion fatigue, I also stress and model self-care to my clients, staff, and interns.

I won’t take the time to detail how social work education and the social work profession teach the theory of healthy boundaries yet expects and rewards those who ignore them. We have too many burned-out social workers and social work students. We have too many good professionals leaving social work in general. To save social workers and the industry, we need change from the top down. Because how can we do our best work when we are exhausted, burned out, or emotionally abused? We can’t!

Did you know that The National Association of Social Workers added self-care to the Code of Ethics?

Highlighted Revisions to the Code of Ethics

On February 19, 2021, and November 6, 2020, the NASW Delegate Assembly approved the following revisions to the NASW Code of Ethics.

(Self-Care) Professional self-care is paramount for competent and ethical social work practice. Professional demands, challenging workplace climates, and exposure to trauma warrant that social workers maintain personal and professional health, safety, and integrity. Social work organizations, agencies, and educational institutions are encouraged to promote organizational policies, practices, and materials to support social workers’ self-care.

NASW, CSWE, and ASWB need to put self-care into practice with their own policies and procedures – how they educate, advocate and appreciate social workers. It’s time to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Register for a Career Activation Strategy Session with a focus on preparation so that we can uncover and combat internal and external barriers to career success. You might be surprised to discover that a lack of quality self-care is negatively impacting your career.

Related: September Really Is The Start of My New Year



Nicki Sanders, MSW, ushers high-performing women of color in mid-level social work and human services leadership through promotion to senior leadership. As Founder and CEO of Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting, her mission is simple – to eliminate toxic workplaces by developing skilled, empathetic, and goal-oriented leaders who have the vision, support, and resources to create a culture where business prospers, and employees thrive individually and collectively. Nicki has an extensive background in nonprofit management leading high-functioning, multi-disciplinary teams. She is an accomplished professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has combined her gift for authentic relationships, Master of Social Work degree, and over 20 years of diverse work experience to create a life and career aligned with her values and purpose. Nicki is a lover of cupcakes, travel, and 80’s hip hop and R&B music.

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