NASW joins religion, spirituality work group

A new resource has been launched that provides social workers and educators greater insight into the religious and spiritual viewpoints of the clients they serve.

“It’s important to recognize a client’s spirituality and religion and acknowledge it,” said Sharon Issurdatt, NASW senior practice associate.

To further this effort, NASW has become a member of the Council on Social Work Education’s Religion and Spirituality Work Group. It represents 18 members from various social work organizations and schools of social work, including the North American Association of Christians in Social Work in Connecticut, Yeshiva University in New York, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Brigham Young University in Utah and the Islamic Social Services Association in Canada.

“A person’s spirituality is not as apparent as race or age,” Issurdatt explained. “At NASW, we realize that the work group’s educational resources are a huge asset in helping people. We also want social workers and social work educators to be aware of the latest trends in social work education as it relates to religion and spirituality.”

Michael Sherr, associate professor at the School of Social Work at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is the group’s chairman. He said the idea for the group’s formation arose from the fact that religion and spirituality are forms of a person’s diversity, just as race and ethnicity. Remaining unbiased toward a person’s diversity is a core competency that is encouraged in social work education and practice, Sherr said. What has been missing, however, is a central resource of information on the topic that can assist social workers and educators.

The site features links to the work group’s affiliated organizations as well as religion and spirituality educational resources, including modules, syllabi and CSWE-generated content.

“The material can be used as a starting point for instructors or supervisors in learning more about the ways religion and spirituality can fit in their context,” said Sherr, who serves on the CSWE Commission on Educational Policy.

He said the mission of the work group is based on the 2008 CSWE Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, the NASW Code of Ethics and Standards for Cultural Competence, and the International

Federation of Social Workers/International Association of Schools of Social Work’s Statement of Principles and other practice standards.

“Social workers are expected to work ethically and effectively with religion and spirituality as relevant to clients and their communities and to refrain from negative discrimination based on religious or nonreligious beliefs,” the group states on its website.

Sherr, who is a member of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work, said the work group’s goal is to expand the content of the website with input from outside sources. The site features a link to the guidelines and a form for submitting educational resources.

“Our vision is that there be enough material to deal with all areas of social work, including direct practice, research, human behavior theory, policy and context,” Sherr said. “We want to bring awareness to the purpose of what is ahead and to have others be aware of basic standards for social work practice.”