By Simon Robinson, Kevin Kendrick and Alan Brown.
Social work’s history as part of the secularisation of welfare, and the current power of the medical profession, have sidelined the practice and professionalisation of the churches. Yet research shows that spiritual issues are important to service users. Social workers and health care professionals, therefore, could gain helpful practice ideas from this book’s brief history of spirituality and good account of its various meanings – although more on spiritualities other than Christianity would be good.
The book’s main focus is practice. A survey of assessment leads into ideas for working with service users on spiritual issues. The discussion of health and illness will help social workers to explore spirituality and social “elsewhere”. Variable chapters follow on working with spirituality in childhood, death and mental health. The chapter on learning difficulties is too sketchy to be useful.
Ideas such as post-modernism and narrative are included, but they are tokens of up-to-dateness. The authors have not confronted the challenge they make to seeing spirituality as a human essence. But the fact more thinking needs to be done does not dent the usefulness of this book as a practical survey.
Malcolm Payne is director, psycho-social and spiritual care, St Christopher’s Hospice, London.