Spiritual Formation Across the Lifespan Essay

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Hope Haslam Straughan Within the social work profession, there is a growing movement affirming that spirituality and religious beliefs are integral to the nature of the person and have a vital influence on human behavior (Hugen, 1998). Canda (1988) identifies spirituality as a basic aspect of human experience, both within and outside the context of religious institutions. If a social worker is going to approach a person in a holistic manner, he or she must be willing to consider each person as a wondrous compilation of bio-psycho-social-spiritual elements. In this way, workers will have an extremely broad base from which to approach the strength and resiliency in the people with whom they interact.
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These ideas, often building upon the familiar concepts of the stage-based developmental patterns, will be presented in a later portion of this chapter. Social workers commonly work within community-serving agencies, while seeking to help people who often have few choices about the conditions under which essential human needs are met. In this role, we must ensure that every protection is given the client and that his or her helplessness is not exploited (Spencer, 1961). “Certainly, in the light of the high value the social work profession has always placed upon the client’s right to solve his [or her] own problems in the way that seems right to him [or her], it is assumed that any considerations of the social worker’s role in the area of religion would be set in this context” (pp. 519-520). Definitions The roots of social work contain many religious and spiritually based components, lending motivation, direction, foundation, and location for social service provision. When approaching the issue of spiritual

Spiritual Development


development and the impact of this on an individual, family, group, community or organization, it is crucial to define the terms that create the backbone for this important discussion. Sue Spencer (1961) was one of the first to attempt to define religion and spirituality from the perspective of a social worker. She identified three major hurdles experienced by those desiring
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