Continuing Education: Appropriate Boundaries for Mental Health Professionals

By Poorna Sudha Goli, MSW Student

The UB School is Social Work’s continuing education program assists social workers and other human services professionals by providing training to help them advance in social work practice. The social work profession is ever-growing and ever-changing, and to keep up with the fast-paced environment, social workers must keep updating their skills to meet clients’ changing needs while staying connected to their roots in social work theory.

Thus, to retain their skills and acquire the latest knowledge, New York State requires all mental health practitioners (LMSW, LMHC, LCAT, LMFT, psychoanalysts and psychologists) to complete 36 hours of acceptable formal continuing education during each three-year registration period (Continuing Education for License master social worker, n.d.).

As of Oct. 19, 2022, the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York amended sections 72.6 and 74.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Requirements for Psychologists, Social Workers and Mental Health Practitioners. It is now mandatory for psychologists, social workers and mental health practitioners to complete three continuing education hours on issues related to “Maintaining appropriate boundaries with patients/clients” during every three-year registration period for registration periods beginning on and after April 1, 2023. These credits must be obtained from department-approved providers only. 

Brown ground of a tennis court with a white boundary line. A yellow tennis ball sits on the white boundary line.

Image by Hans Dietmann from Pixabay

According to Education Law, it is the social worker’s responsibility to maintain appropriate professional boundaries; the client is the center of the decision-making process, and social workers must avoid dual relationships with clients. Keeping boundaries is essential to make sure the relationship between social workers and their clients remains professional despite working on highly personal issues.

Maintaining boundaries can be especially difficult when dealing with a client’s struggles on a very personal level. It is easy to cross professional boundaries in sensitive situations. In some cases, professional behavior might make clients closed, as they commonly expect us to be as open as they are. Although self-disclosure should generally be avoided, in some instances, it is beneficial to do it while maintaining essential boundaries. It is also helpful to shift the focus toward clients while making decisions. Informing the clients of the nature and goals of this therapeutic collaboration is the responsibility of the social worker.

Thus, to address these important topics and new requirements, the UB School of Social Work has developed courses on ethics and boundaries. To learn more, see the ethics and boundaries courses in our catalog.


Published May 24, 2023