The Importance of Spirituality in Social Work Practices
Spirituality is different for every person. However, some people may consider spirituality with distaste. They associate it with new age philosophy, drug use, and psychedelics.
But, spirituality is an often misunderstood concept. Most people reduce spirituality to religion and add their prejudices to any discussions about spirituality. While most religions do emphasise spirituality, people can be spiritual without being religious.
Difference between religion and spirituality
Spirituality is not the same as religion. While spirituality is about our connection to something other than ourselves, religion is not the same.
Spirituality gives our lives meaning and a purpose. But, religion is a socially constructed idea. Everyone has an inner spirituality, despite their individual beliefs.
Furthermore, religion has several commands and markings to help people stay on the correct path. However, spirituality is not about details or rules. A person does not have to do some rituals or actions to enjoy a spiritual existence. They only have to focus on their soul and the human spirit.
Therefore, spirituality is a multifaceted concept, but it is different for every individual. Unlike religion, spirituality does not have to be shared by a group or community.
The excellent news is that people can simultaneously be spiritual and religious. They do not have to restrict themselves to one thing.
But why do we need to focus on spirituality? Spirituality helps people endure hardships and thrive in challenging times. There is scientific consensus to support the claim. Therefore, social workers are increasingly focusing on spirituality to improve resilience. Both spirituality and social work are integral parts of social justice in the modern world.
Previously, social workers shied away from questions about religion and spirituality. They were wary of offending clients or pushing their biases on to others. Furthermore, social workers avoided talking to clients about spirituality for fear of judgment.
However, this attitude had a detrimental effect on the health of the patient population. Clients began to feel disconnected from the social workers. This feeling undermines the success of treatment. Patients who follow a hybrid model are more likely to become well-adjusted individuals with positive psychological adjustment.
Social workers would relegate faith-based discussions to other service providers such as pastors or muezzins. Therefore, there was a gap between the needs of the population and support from the workers.
Faith and spirituality is a necessary component of the physical, intellectual and emotional self. So, we can not ignore spirituality when considering treatment options for patients. Social workers have to master the spiritual competencies before they engage in fieldwork.
The spiritual assessment also provides the unique opportunity to educate counsellors about cultural differences. Clients use their belief systems to practice resilience. Therefore, a practitioner who understands the relevance of religion and spirituality can help people facilitate change.
Several social workers have successfully used spirituality to improve their competency. For example, survivors of the 9/11 attacks found spiritually guided sessions helpful to help them process the trauma and pain. Several survivors gathered together to sit in silence and talk about the incident. The spiritual experience helped them cope with the uncertainty and realise the significance of the human connection.
Spirituality helps ground us and encourages us to enjoy the present instead of worrying about the future and obsessing over the past. Not only do we function with focus, but we also become more spontaneous. So, patients struggling with anxiety or depression may find spiritual intervention helpful in managing stress.
Furthermore, spiritual activities such as meditation improve brain function. Several studies show that these activities improve focus, cognition, and emotional intelligence. According to a recent study, some parts of the brain become active after a spiritual experience. Social workers working with patients struggling with degenerative diseases can introduce spiritual practices to improve treatment outcomes.
Spiritual people are more forgiving. They can let go of negative feelings such as blame and grudges. Therefore, they have less stress in their lives and lower blood pressure. These abilities make people more resilient. People struggling with survivor’s guilt or rage can use spirituality to improve their psychological wellness. Rape victims and survivors of sexual violence have benefited from spiritually based recovery options.
Spirituality can also help care providers. Social workers face distressing and traumatic incidents every day. They may find it impossible to move on from troubling memories and the stress of bad news. Therefore, they may struggle to empathise with their clients. Thankfully, spiritual self-care can help social workers move on and do their job. It provides an opportunity to recharge and re-energise.
It also improves decision-making abilities. Spiritual people make decisions according to their values. Their overarching goal is to develop trust and retain faith. So, they become closer to others by recognising the shared human experience and compassion. Therefore, spirituality is as vital for social workers as for their clients.
Introducing spirituality to social work is complicated. There are several pitfalls a social worker must avoid when introducing spirituality to their practice.
Social workers must begin with a self-evaluation. They must examine their own beliefs. It is vital to understand if our spiritual beliefs will prevent us from helping patients in unique circumstances. Social workers can set boundaries in their practice to avoid these situations.
Ask about a patient’s beliefs
Social work is when intimate counsellors work closely with patients. They may help their client navigate complicated questions about their lives, such as their purpose. Therefore, it is vital to ask patients about their spiritual and religious beliefs. Conversations about spirituality can provide invaluable support to people struggling with their self-worth.
Social workers have diverse patient populations. So, they have to do twice as much work as others. They have to learn more about their patients and understand their spiritual practices.
Social work and spirituality are two sides of the same coin. Unfortunately, social workers often ignore the spiritual aspect of recovery and treatment. This mistake makes their social work practice ineffective. Therefore, social work should incorporate spirituality and wellness to improve the body, mind, and spirit.