Is it ethical for a social worker to ignore a client’s phone calls?

I terminated my counseling relationship with a social worker several years ago. I am now realizing that I would like to begin counseling again. The social worker’s voicemail message says that he returns calls in 24 hours, but he hasn't called me back. I called him on the weekend and made it clear that I want him to call me back. Can he just ignore me?

Eric Ström, JD, MA, LMHC
Eric Ström, JD, MA, LMHC
Attorney & Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Mental health providers should promptly return calls from current clients as well as from potential clients.  This is even true if the social worker (or counselor) is unable to make an appointment with the caller.  In that case the social worker should call you back to let you know that he is unable to schedule an appointment with you.

In addition, mental health providers have an obligation to follow through with their own communication standards.  For example, if the social worker in this case has an outgoing voicemail message that promises returned calls within 24 hours, he has an obligation to follow through on that promise.

All that being said, it is also worth remembering that mental health professionals are just people too. It is possible that he had an unforeseen emergency that kept him from from returning your call promptly.

In the end, I agree with Sherry's advice. If you feel this social worker is not a good fit for you, you probably should trust your gut and find someone else who is a better fit.
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care nor legal advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist/attorney nor does it create a therapist-client nor attorney-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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