We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

E-book purchase
Choose a subscription

Downloaded copy on your device does not expire. Includes 4 years of Bookshelf Online.


Where applicable, tax will be added to the above price prior to payment.

E-book purchasing help


The Helping Professional's Guide to Ethics

Theory in Practice

Second Edition

Valerie Bryan, Scott Sanders, and Laura E. Kaplan

Publication Date - 15 July 2021

ISBN: 9780197502853

208 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

Thought provoking and practical guidance for ethical decision-making


The Helping Professional's Guide to Ethics, Second Edition develops a comprehensive framework for ethics based on Bernard Gert's theory of common morality. Moving beyond codes of ethics, Bryan, Sanders, and Kaplan encourage students to develop a cohesive sense of ethical reasoning that both validates their moral intuition and challenges moral assumptions. Part I of the text introduces basic moral theory, provides an overview to moral development, and introduces the common morality framework. Part II focuses on common ethical issues faced by helping professionals such as: confidentiality, competency, paternalism, informed consent, and dual relationships. Each chapter provides an overview of each concept and their ethical relevance for practice. Throughout the text, students put their critical thinking skills into practice to promote deep learning. Real-life cases bridge the gap between theory and practice, and discussion questions reinforce the concepts introduced in each chapter.

New to this Edition

  • New chapter, “Moral Disagreement and Common Morality,” applies common morality to a large and important current social issue: death with dignity
  • Revised and expanded discussion of the universality of the common morality system offers students greater clarity
  • Updated coverage of laws pertaining to the duty to warn and protect incorporates newest regulations
  • References to the National Association of Social Workers' Code of Ethics reflect the 2017 standards


  • The only available social work text that takes a common morality approach to ethics
  • A moral framework offers students a process of justification analysis that prevents moral harms when put into practice
  • Case examples allow readers to walk through the decision-making process step-by-step while also examining their own assumptions and biases
  • Accompanied by a robust set of instructor resources including: a test bank with multiple-choice and discussion questions; PowerPoint lecture outlines; a case study bank with 12 extra cases; and an instructor's manual

About the Author(s)

Valerie Bryan (MSW, PhD, University of Kentucky) is associate professor and former program baccalaureate program director at the University of South Alabama. While teaching across the generalist social work curriculum, her scholarly areas of interest include applied ethics, juvenile justice, gender studies, child welfare, and health disparities.

Scott Sanders (MSW, Grand Valley State University; PhD, University of Kentucky) is program director and professor of social work at Lourdes University. He advocates for a practical application of ethical decision-making to school social workers, substance abuse counselors, child and family service workers, and social work educators.

Laura E. Kaplan, (PhD, MSW, LCSW, University of Kentucky) teaches with Fordham University's Graduate School of Social Services online MSW program. She provides professional CEU courses and consults in the United States and abroad. She also reviews federal grant applications and has published professional articles, textbooks, instructor manuals, and curricula. Her extensive background in community activism and professional practice has laid the groundwork for her interest in ethics and human rights and social justice in social work practice and education.


"The second edition of The Helping Professional's Guide to Ethics is even better than the first. I applaud the authors' keen critique of a values approach to ethical reasoning, which is predominate in social work. This sets the stage for the crystal-clear presentation of the common morality framework, which is the center of this important book. Case examples are rich and interesting, and they add to the utility and humanity of the common morality method. This is an important book for the helping professions." -- Kay Seeley Hoffman, University of Kentucky

"All helping professionals have faced an ethical dilemma in their practice. As we contemplate our options, we draw upon our professional education; we search the internet for guidance; we talk to our colleagues and supervisors. What we really need to do is read The Helping Professionals Guide to Ethics. In the present day, when the ethics and morality of modern life are more relevant than ever, the second edition of this text is right on time. From the theoretical to the practical, this book covers what you need to know, and more." -- Kathryn Krase, Yeshiva University

"A perfect marriage between contemporary social work ethical practice and the classic philosophy of Bernard Gert. This textbook introduces a fresh perspective on Gert's common morality framework to guide practitioners on the complexities of ethical decision making." -- Alicia McLaughlin, University of St. Francis

"Bryan, Sanders, and Kaplan have been refining the practical approach they offer here for decades -- a very clear and current application of Bernard Gert's common morality framework for our field with realistic case examples to guide students and practitioners through the challenges of our time." -- Crystal Collins-Camargo, University of Louisville

Table of Contents


    1. The Basics of Moral Theory, Professional Codes of Ethics, and Professional Ideals
    Contemporary Professional Principles and Ethical Principlism
    Deontology, Utilitarianism, and Principlism
    Codes of Ethics and Principlism
    Practice Concerns and Ethics Education
    The Disconnect Between Values and Ethical Decision-Making
    Conclusion and Future Directions

    2. Moral Development and Ethical Decision-Making in Social Work Practice
    Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development
    The Neo-Kohlbergian Approach
    The Four-Component Model

    3. Common Morality and Ethical Decision-Making
    Bernard Gert
    Common Morality

    4. Confidentiality and the Duty to Warn and Protect
    The Concept of Confidentiality in the Helping Professions
    Codes of Ethics and Laws About Confidentiality
    The Duties to Warn and Protect
    Common Morality, Confidentiality, and the Duty to Warn/Protect
    Analysis of Confidentiality and Private Health Information Through the Common Morality Framework

    5. Competency
    Competency and the Court System
    Competency Defined
    Competency as the Ability to Make a Rational Decision

    6. Paternalism
    Conceptualization of Paternalism
    Common Morality and Paternalism
    Analysis of Paternalism in an Involuntary Psychiatric Hospitalization Through the Common Morality Lens

    7. Informed Consent: Important Moral Considerations
    The Product of Informed Consent
    The Moral Basis of Informed Consent
    Valid Consent: A Professional Duty
    Competence, Rationality, and Informed Consent
    Coercive Environments and Informed Consent
    Drug Treatment Courts
    Analysis of Informed Consent to Enter Drug Treatment Court Through the Common Morality Lens
    The Relationship Between Informed Consent and Paternalism
    Ideal Consent

    8. Dual Relationships
    Definitions of Dual Relationships
    Substance Abuse and Dual Relationships
    Analysis of Dual Relationships Through the Common Morality Lens

    9. Moral Disagreement and Common Morality
    Assessing Bob's Competence
    Analysis of Treatment Refusal Through the Common Morality Lens
    Analysis of Floyd's Treatment Through the Common Morality Lens

    10. Concluding Comments
    Coming Full Circle
    Application of the Common Morality Framework in Individual Cases
    Values, Principles, Standards, Laws, and the Common Morality