Faith and field: The ethical inclusion of spirituality within the pedagogy of social work

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Field Educator

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Date Added



Based on the client’s expressed need or desire to include conversations about their faith, we have found that these concerns cannot be relegated to another service provider, such as the chaplain or pastoral counselor, but must be considered an integral part of social work practice within the field experience. Social workers are guided by Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Standards of Practice (CSWE, 1995, 2001) to include spirituality as part of our responsible cultural competency requirements. The inclusion of the client’s expressed faith and/or spirituality may provide a deeper level of commitment by the client and the practitioner to the ascribed work, along with providing a valuable opening into how best to incorporate what the client brings as a way to facilitate effective change. (2) Sectarian origins, which began with the Colonial period and lasted through the first 20 years of the 20 century when early human services, institutions, and social welfare policies were significantly impacted by Judeo Christian worldviews on charity, communal responsibility, and social justice. There were also competing explanations of human behavior, which ranged from distinguishing moral blame or merit (the worthy versus the unworthy poor) and the social reform and social justice focus (e.g. Jewish communal service and Christian social gospel). Human service providers typically had a strong spiritual foundation for their work but offered service through non-sectarian means (e.g. Jane Addams and the settlement house movement).


Social Work