Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


In recent years there has been an effort to reintroduce religion and spirituality as tangible constructs into social work education and practice in an effort to incorporate all aspects of the client's system (biological, psychological, social, spiritual) and to understand and appreciate the client's diversity and potential strengths and resources. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of social work practitioners as it relates to their social work practice and to the education of future social workers.

This study was composed of two parts. The first was a secondary data analysis using factor analysis, regression, and analysis of variance techniques to analyze items of interest from a national survey of social workers. Questions for the secondary analysis focused on the definitions of religion and spirituality; the religious and spiritual beliefs, practices, and ideologies of the social workers surveyed; their ideas about incorporating religion and spirituality into social work practice situations; and whether they believed that spirituality should be considered a fundamental aspect of being human. The second part is a reflection upon and an accounting of the unexpected developments in the spiritual journey of the researcher as they unfolded during the investigative process.

Social workers surveyed defined the concepts of religion and spirituality much in the same way as researchers did. Factor analysis identified similar latent components to the concepts of religion and spirituality. Stepwise forward multiple regression identified two models that reflected differences as to whether social workers felt it was appropriate to bring up the topic of religion or spirituality in their social work practice. Differences were based on the personal private or personal public community religious practices of social workers. Analysis of variance demonstrated that the greater the lifetime frequency of participation of social workers in spiritual or religious activities, the more likely they were to believe it is appropriate to raise the topics of religion and spirituality. Over 90% of social workers in this sample agreed that religious and spiritual beliefs should be incorporated into social work education because they are a part of multicultural diversity and 77.7% believed they should be included because there is a spiritual aspect of human existence. Eighty-nine percent of social workers believed that spirituality was a fundamental aspect of being human. The importance of each social worker's awareness and participation in their own spiritual self-journey was stressed through the findings in the literature and the researcher's own personal reflections.

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Psychology Commons