Beliefs or not: a study of Bachelor of Social Work students' beliefs about the inclusion of religious and spiritual content in social work

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Graff, Dorothy Lockhart

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This study of 324 purposively selected BSW students from seven schools of social work in Texas focuses on the students’ personal religious/spiritual beliefs and their views of inclusion of religious/spiritual content in both social work practice and social work education. Part I of the Religion/Spirituality & Social Work Questionnaire addresses students’ personal religious/spiritual beliefs; Part II addresses students’ views on inclusion of religious/spiritual content in social work in general and with specific practice interventions; and Part III addresses demographic variables. The majority of students in this sample are practicing Christians who have strong personal religious/spiritual beliefs and are relatively open to incorporating at least some religious/spiritual content into their practice with clients. Over 80 percent of the students favor inclusion of content on religious/spiritual diversity in social work courses as well as content on how to effectively deal with religious/spiritual issues in practice. The clear implication for social work educators is to better prepare their students for practice in areas of religious/spiritual diversity in order to promote effective and ethical social work practice. Of some concern are the 21.6 percent of students in this study who feel that their religious/spiritual beliefs are right for all people and who also feel that it is appropriate at times to use religious language and texts with clients. In addition, 62.7 percent who indicate that they carry their religious/spiritual beliefs into all areas of their life, also feel that it is appropriate for social workers to use religious/spiritual interventions such as prayer, religious/spiritual metaphors, language and concepts as well as sometimes share their own beliefs with clients. These findings raise ethical questions for social work educators and indicate the need for further research to determine whether similar findings occur in studies with other BSW students in other areas of the country.