The Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in Clinical Social Work: A Review of Standards of Care

Daniel Harkness, Boise State University


Licensed to diagnose and treat mental disorders, clinical social workers have begun to develop and practice professional standards commensurate with their status as the nation’s largest provider of mental health care. Against the backdrop of malpractice claims and awards, this paper reviews the extant standards promulgated by our professional organizations, regulatory bodies, health-insurance and managed-care entities, and the courts to synthesize standards of care for the diagnosis of mental disorders. The limited available evidence suggests that clinical social workers merit congratulations and concern as we rise to the challenge of addressing those standards in education and practice.