This entry addresses the topic of spirituality in the social work profession, with an emphasis on the American context. Toward that end, the history of the relationship between the profession and spirituality is traced from the profession’s origins, through secularization, to the present reemergence of spirituality as a legitimate subject in social work discourse. The diverse ways in which spirituality and religion are conceptualized are reviewed along with rationales that are advanced to support the inclusion of spirituality in social work. The topics of spiritual assessment and intervention are discussed and guidelines for using spiritual interventions in practice settings are presented with a brief review of the research on spiritual interventions from an evidenced-based perspective. Some of the organizations that help support and nurture spirituality in social work are delineated. The entry concludes with a summary of proscriptions for advancing spirituality to the next stage in its professional development.
David R. Hodge
Sheldon R. Gelman
Celia B. Weisman (1918–2000), professor emerita at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, was a pioneer in advocacy on behalf of the elderly both nationally and internationally.
Edward R. Canda and Sherry Warren
This entry provides an introduction to mindfulness as a therapeutic practice applied within social work, including in mental health and health settings. It describes and critiques mindfulness-based practices regarding definitions, history, current practices, best practices research, and ethical issues related to using evidence-based practices, acquiring competence, addressing social justice, and respecting diversity.
Edward R. Canda
This entry provides a brief introduction to social work's approach to spirituality and religion, focusing on definitions, history, current practices, ethical and human-diversity issues, relevance to clients, practice applications, best-practices research, and controversies. Emphasis is given to a spiritually sensitive and culturally competent approach to social work that honors diverse religious and nonreligious spiritual perspectives of clients and their communities. Although American social work is the focus, some international developments are included. References and websites are listed to facilitate identification of resources for addressing spiritual diversity in practice.
The profession of social work continues to struggle with the provision of services that must be culturally sensitive to the values and traditions of the people who live in rural neighborhoods and colonias along the U.S.–Mexico border. The diverse populations that live in the border environment are self-reliant and distrust outsiders. This most salient fact creates opportunities for social work programs to adopt the person-in-the-environment approach to assessment. In so doing, the gente (people) in need of services are more apt to feel respected and will facilitate access to their families and communities. The rurality paradigm was developed to provide an understanding of the underlying ideologies of the community first and foremost. Rurality views people’s self-image as constructed by their interactions with each other and the environment. Social work practice in rural areas continues to be at the forefront of both educational and professional concerns. A paradigm shift is advocated to capture the “rurality”- defined lifestyle found along the U.S.–Mexico border of South Texas. This approach provides a more in-depth view of the social interactions necessary for competent, culturally sensitive social work practice.
Direct social work practice is the application of social work theory and/or methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. In this article, direct practice is discussed in the context of social work values, empowerment, diversity, and multiculturalism, as well as with attention to client strengths, spirituality, and risk and resilience influences. The challenges of practice evaluation are also considered.
Darlyne Bailey, Kimberly B. Bonner, Katrina M. Uhly, and Jessica Schaffner Wilen
The concept of leadership has evolved from focusing on innate abilities, to learned skills, to understanding that leadership is composed of both skills and abilities. Recently, theorists and practitioners have identified elements of effective leadership within social work organizations. These areas of knowledge, skills, and values encourage social work leaders to recognize their organizations as living systems within an interdependent world and aid them in connecting humanistic intentions with effects. Both acknowledgment and enactment of these leadership competencies are essential for all organizational members to engage in effective dialogue and action. Social workers, regardless of their organizational titles, can learn and hone these qualities in social work training programs and continuing professional development opportunities, as well as through practical field experiences for effective leadership in the field.
This article describes issues related to culturally competent social work practice with religiously fundamentalist families in public school settings. It addresses the history of religious fundamentalist identities, the complexity inherent in such identities, and the nature of fundamentalism. A review of issues related to culturally competent practice in educational settings is offered. Recommendations informed by spiritually sensitive and strength-based approaches are discussed. Challenges to working effectively with religiously conservative and fundamentalist families in educational settings are also explored. Emphasis is placed upon the practitioner’s role in developing spirituality-sensitive therapeutic relationships by improving religious literacy, developing enhanced self-awareness, and approaching clients from a perspective of cultural humility and a lens of intersectionality.