Welcome! We’re glad to see you again!

In order for you to reinstate, we strongly recommend that you review the following documents.

Continuing Education (CE) is an important part of advanced practice. ABE requires that the BCD clinician amass a minimum of 20 clock hours of clinical CE annually in order to maintain the BCD. This CE may be formal or informal, as related below. ABE does not pre-approve specific CE activities but does require that they directly address the professional practice of clinical social work and meet the guide lines listed below.

Formal Activities

Formal CE activities are: verifiable courses, practice-oriented seminars, workshops, staff development activities, webinars, podcasts, or other forms of “distance learning” – all must be verifiable and accredited/offered by state licensing boards, professional associations, and graduate schools.

Informal Activities

Informal CE activities include clinical learning at structured social work meetings and discussions, including the following:

  • Staff meetings focused on clinical social work methods or theory but not on specific cases or administrative matters;
  • Speaker presentations (at professional society meetings) addressing clinical social work methods, theories, or issues;
  • Peer-group meetings, panel discussions, and study groups, in which practitioners discuss clinical social work methods, theories, or issues.


ABE extends time-and-a-half credit to BCD clinicians who, in the past two years, taught a college-level clinical social work course or an advanced clinical social work workshop for the first time (verifiable by the sponsoring organization).


ABE extends 10 credits to BCD clinicians who, in the past two years, have published a clinical social work article or book chapter in a peer-reviewed social work or related journal or book.

Documentation of Activities. Some BCD holders annually are asked to furnish documentation of continuing education activities. You will be notified if you are in that group.

For formal activities, ABE requires photocopies of a certificate or a letter from the event’s sponsor or instructor (including your name, date, CE hours attained, and, if needed, the course syllabus or conference brochure), or a description of the activity (with participants, date, topics, and duration) signed by the coordinator or group leader.

For informal activities, provide a document that summarizes the activity and its clinical social work content, with date, duration, name/title of leader/coordinator, mention of participants (e.g. clinical staff of Acme Hospital), indication of your attendance, and signature of person responsible.

Do not submit documentation of continuing education to ABE unless requested.

In brief, advanced clinical social work consists of:

  • Assessment, evaluation, diagnosis
  • Bio-psychosocial intervention (treatment) including treatment planning
  • Clinical supervision and consultation.

Clinical social workers are advanced healthcare professionals, clinically licensed in every state, providing behavioral services with unique values such as social justice and approaches such as person-in-environment. At a minimum, they hold master‛s degrees and have years of post-master‛s training. They apply theory creatively and flexibly, using psychotherapy and other therapies to enable people to overcome disorders and regain functioning. Clinical practice includes clinical case management (client case-conferences, referral-making, and relevant record-keeping and communicating) but does NOT include administrative duties, triage, outreach, hotline counseling, and other activities that do not require advanced clinical abilities.


Ethical principles are fundamental to clinical social work. Ethics are precepts that guide the moral conduct of professionals; they are not the same as practice standards, which prescribe competent practice at various levels of development. Clinical social workers who are board certified by the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABE) are required to adhere to its ethics code. They must also observe ethics codes and precepts of relevant state statutes and regulations of the social work membership organizations, employing agencies, or uniformed services to which they may belong.

ABE’s Ethics Code consists of general principles rather than specific rules and regulations. Specific rules and regulations are contained in various sections of some state license statutes, state Societies for Clinical Social Work, and the National Association of Social Workers. The reader is referred to these codes for additional guidance in matters of ethical conduct, as well as to the principles below.


I. Responsibility to Clients

  1. Clinical social workers observe the primacy of client need balanced with the right to self-determination. They take all reasonable steps to prevent the client from causing harm to self and others, and use their diagnostic and treatment skills to improve the mental health and social functioning of clients.
  2. Early in professional relationships clinical social workers explain their professional identity and qualifications, setting fair fees (no fee-splitting), and mutual obligations; including the need to terminate services when not required/desired by the client. They make provisions to avoid abandonment when services must be interrupted.
  3. Except as mandated by law, legal precedent or court order, client-clinician communication is privileged and confidential, and the release of such information at any time must occur only with written informed consent of the client, legal guardian, or research subject.
  4. Clinical social workers monitor the quality of their services, continuously evaluate their effectiveness, and strive to increase skills, knowledge and mastery. They refrain from conduct in which personal issues or biases may prove harmful or impede competence.
  5. Clinical social workers do not use clients for self-interest, do not socialize with clients in a manner detrimental to treatment, and do not exploit clients or engage in sexual harassment or sexual relationships with supervisees, students, employees, research subjects, or current and former clients. The clinician carries the burden of determining that a relationship is appropriate, not detrimental, and does not violate boundaries of roles.

II. Responsibility to Profession

  1. Clinical social workers practice within the legal constraints of their state license(s) and adhere to the ethics codes of the social-work organizations to which they belong.
  2. Clinical social workers act in a manner that promotes and preserves the professional social work values and the practice standards of clinical social work.
  3. Clinical social workers make clear their role when speaking or acting as a private individual rather than as a professional or as a representative of a professional organization.
  4. When more than one clinician is involved the care of a client, clinical social workers seek to coordinate treatment. They are obligated to address any collaborative issues are that are not in the best interest of the client.

III. Responsibility to Society

  1. Clinical social workers do not discriminate against anyone, including discrimination due to age, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation.
  2. Clinical social workers, acting as practitioners, instructors, supervisors, or employers, take care to avoid incompetence, dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or dishonorable business practices.
  3. If an employing entity’s practices/policies conflict with professional ethics or practice standards, the clinician shall seek to bring about change in the employing entity.
  4. Clinical social workers conduct research in a manner consistent with the values/standards of clinical social work practice, and report findings accurately.


In order to uphold the integrity of its certifications, the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABE) may reprimand or censure a certificant or suspend or revoke his/her certification, for any of the following reasons:

  • Breach of this ethics code,
  • Conviction of a felony or crime of moral turpitude,
  • Misdemeanor based on professional shortcomings,
  • Incompetence (professional or mental) or narcotics addiction or habitual intoxication,
  • Expulsion from other social work organizations, or revocation of state licensure or certification.

Through its website and newsletter, ABE may make public any disciplinary action taken against the practitioner.

To begin reinstatement, click here where you will be asked to enter your email address (ignore the request for a username).

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ABE is a unit of the Center for Clinical Social Work as is ACSWA, the American Clinical Social Work Association.

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