Amy Colver, LCSW
Melody Griffith, MSW, LMSW, OSW-C
AOSW Communications Director
Jeanice Hansen, LCSW, OSW-C
To submit a story or information for inclusion in a future issue of AOSW Newsletter, contact Amy Colver or Melody Griffith on the list above.
Spirituality SIG: The Evolving Integration of Spirituality in Social Work Practice
Our Spirituality SIG members enjoyed meaningful time of connection at the 2016 AOSW Annual Conference. We shared a mutual perception that the space for and acceptance of the role of spirituality in health care practice has seemed to grow significantly in the past few years. This was evident within our own group, with an upward trend in the number of presentations relating to spirituality.
We also noted that discussions of the therapeutic value of “meaning making” and the use of language that is more inclusive of spirituality are consistently appearing in the literature of other healthcare disciplines. This has contributed to a broader context of increased interdisciplinary interest and involvement in exploring integration of spirituality by all team members in providing patient and family care. And we have witnessed a number of accredited schools of social work offering both classes and post-master’s certification programs in “spirituality and social work.” There is indeed a growing recognition that delivery of spiritual care requires the involvement of the entire interdisciplinary team and interdisciplinary professional organizations are also emerging from this awareness.
We want to make you aware of a relatively new organization, The Spiritual Care Association (SCA), which describes itself as a “multidisciplinary, international professional membership association…for all types of spiritual care providers”. While SCA has a primary focus on growing the chaplaincy profession, it has invited other non-chaplain organizations and individuals (e.g., social work, nursing, physicians, patient advocates) to participate in its agenda to promote the value of spiritual care in health care and provide continuing education in this area. SCA is sponsoring its annual Caring for the Human Spirit Conference on March 13-15, 2017 in Chicago. This conference will include several breakout sessions specifically for social workers led by some of our very own AOSW members. Check out the website for more information regarding this organization and the conference.
While much exciting progress has been made in expanding beyond biopsychosocial approaches to biopsychosocial-spiritual models as the standard of care, we as social workers need to continue to add our voices to this evolving dimension of interdisciplinary spiritual care delivery. We bring a rich history of commitment to whole person care, diversity awareness and advocacy, client self-determination, and understanding of the value of sources of client inner strengths and resources not confined to the body and mind, but also involving the spirit. We encourage you to continue to explore how spirituality fits into your oncology social work practice and to be sure you are “at the table” as spirituality focused care continues to be discussed and delivered in your organization. Please check out relevant spirituality information and resources posted in the AOSW Spirituality SIG community.
I close by sharing my experience this week of interacting with the incoming Fall, 2016, class of MSW students at our local university. I was so struck to hear many of them initiating conversations about spirituality, acknowledging—and freely expressing—their interest in finding ways to integrate spirituality into their social work practice in a broad range of practice specialty areas. I reflected on my own experience of being an MSW student some 35 years ago, rarely hearing spirituality mentioned much less discussing how to integrate it into practice. This integrative care came much later for me as my patients taught me that spirituality was important to them and if I was to be of service to them, I needed to make a space in our work together that included a spiritual dimension by whatever name one may call it. My spirit was stirred and encouraged as I listened to these students who are the future of our profession and thought back on how far integrative, holistic health care has come as well as looking ahead to the unending opportunities we have as skilled oncology social workers to continue to be witnesses to the whole stories of mind, body and spirit that our clients long to have heard.