Post-Qualifying Practice: Implications for Social Workers with a Spiritual Approach to Practice

Post-Qualifying Practice: Implications for Social Workers with a Spiritual Approach to Practice

Mary Nash (Massey University, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6563-7.ch016
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A spiritual approach to social work practice is gaining recognition. This chapter considers the implications for practitioners who draw on spirituality in their work and the requirements for post-qualifying practice or Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Key terms are defined drawing on research and publications relating to CPD, and spiritual worldviews and their influence on social work are discussed. A case study illustrates how practitioners may choose to reflect on their own spiritual worldview in order to be better equipped when working with clients for whom the spiritual or religious dimension is important. It is suggested that this helps the practitioner to establish good working relationships across cultures and beliefs, and it consequently increases the chances of successful interventions. A second case study provides an example of how the social work practitioner, through involvement in a creative project, drew on spirituality in order to promote her own self-care.
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There are many expressions of spirituality and I consider that it is now widely accepted that a spiritual approach to practice can be an appropriate, sustaining, and creative dimension for social workers and service-users. Accordingly, this chapter addresses spirituality as potentially a sustaining and creative dimension for social workers with their need for self-care and reflects on its implications for those who use their services. Writing about spirituality and social work in a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) environment means taking the discussion beyond the, by now familiar, introductory level. I will, therefore, be considering how social workers with a spiritual stance may respond to the task of “maintaining and developing the professional identity of social work, be it [their] own or a colleagues [which] is an important part of [their] professional development as a Social Worker” (Australian Association of Social Workers [AASW], 2012/13, p. 7). In order to contextualise this discussion, key terms are defined and relevant research and publications are covered.

The Search Strategy

The literature search has been guided by several criteria, with most sources being published within the last ten years. Key words and phrases were spirituality, social work, “community gardening”, “environmental social work”, “accreditation standards”, and “continuing professional development”. A deliberate policy of using free access literature where possible was adopted. Recent literature spanning books, journal articles, and websites suggests that authors and researchers have increasing confidence in asserting a place for a spiritual dimension in social work theory and practice (Canda & Furman, 2010; Crisp, 2010; Gale & Dudley, 2013; Gardner, 2011; Holloway & Moss, 2010; Nash & Stewart, 2002; Walsh, 2011; Wong & Vinsky, 2009). Practical applications and the cultural significance of spirituality derived from research and practice show how practitioners and clients may work together, drawing on their diverse spiritual strengths and insights to achieve mutually agreed goals. It is acknowledged that there is ongoing, probably endemic, diversity in how spirituality is defined in the context of social work.


The Role Of Spirituality

In the USA, social workers must recognise the importance of service-users’ religious beliefs and they also have a duty to “advance human rights and social and economic justice” (Council on Social Work Education, 2008, Educational Policy 2.1.5). Freedom of religious belief is one of those human rights (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, Article 18). The first case study illustrates the importance of recognising when the spiritual (and cultural) world view of a client must be taken into account in order to achieve a good working relationship and consequently successful intervention. The second case study discusses how the practitioner can draw on their personal spirituality to sustain themselves at a transformative level through a shared garden project. When presenting the case studies, the author refers to the reflective, critical, and transformative practice framework for continuing professional development (Adams, 2007).

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