Spirituality and Social Work

Spirituality And Social Work by Margaret Holloway and Bernard H. Moss, Palgrave

Spirituality And Social Work by Margaret Holloway and Bernard H. Moss

Palgrave and Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-230-21924-3, Price £18.99

Many commentators ask why social work seems to have been so resistant to taking on the importance of people’s spiritual dimension, when other professions have seized the initiative. As those who use services, their carers, and the staff who serve them, have become more disenchanted with mechanistic targets and robot management styles, issues of spirituality, identity, dignity and culture have become increasingly important.

John Swinton, from a nursing tradition, and last year The Royal College of Psychiatrists, have issued cogent works on spirituality, and now social work has Margaret Holloway and Bernard Moss putting spirituality on the social work map. As they predict, their book “tackles and explores one of the most significant, important and controversial themes to emerge in social work in recent years. Spirituality has ‘come of age'”.

Holloway and Moss suggest that social work’s resistance to engaging with the issue of spirituality may be because it is “a secular profession which takes place to a very large extent in secular organisations”. The authors start with helpful definitions of spirituality and religion, and use inserts and examples throughout the texts, to bring the whole work to life. Starting with the definition is vital as many people will say that they are “spiritual but not religious”. Many communities in our cities are made up of a cultural group with a strong religious tradition, and people will move between belief and unbelief and back again; or may be affiliated to a religious tradition but use aspects of other traditions as well, eg, the Christian who practices yoga.

The book ranges from the conceptual, to the individual, to the multi professional and to the global. It has chapters on: contemporary and historical context; meaning, mystery and social work; spiritual need; spirituality and the quality of life; spiritual care; spiritual care in the multi disciplinary team; spirituality and community; and global and multi cultural perspectives. Holloway and Moss draw in the reader, in their conclusion, towards issues of social justice at a time of major crises for humanity. They quote Ann Pettifor, a political economist, as stating cogently that: “Let us make no bones about it. This financial crisis is a major spiritual crisis”. Holloway and Moss bring us back to the soul of social work in this timely and beautifully written book.

Professor Peter Gilbert is project lead for the National Spirituality Forum, and the author of Social Work and Mental Health: The Value of Everything

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