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International Study of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work Practice

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Welcome to the International Study of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work Practice (ISRSSWP)


The purpose of the International Study of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work Practice (ISRSSWP) is to better understand the extent to which practicing social workers incorporate religion and spirituality in their practice and to explore their views regarding the appropriateness of religion and spirituality in social work practice. In response to the problematic lack of international research, cross-national survey research has been conducted in the USA, the United Kingdom, Norway, and New Zealand, to expand the knowledge base with empirical data regarding the global interface of spirituality and religion in social work practice and education.


As we begin the 21st century, the social work profession is faced with a number of competing ideological positions and realities. There is a growing trend toward globalization and international social work which is evident in the establishment of an international definition of social work and the development of universal qualifying standards for education by the International Association of Schools of Social Work and the International Federation of Social Workers (IASSW/IFSW). There are professional concerns about the hegemonic aspects of Western social work and the potential effects that these aspects may have on local environs where poverty, disease, hunger, and war may be rampant. There has also been a social trend toward multiculturism and pluralism in the West, as well as a growing debate about the status and the effects of secularism in the modern state. Furthermore, social work's prescriptions for culturally competent practice may not be adequate in a traditional, pre-modern culture where religion affects many sectors of government and society, although one could argue that many of the problems that people face on a daily basis in any given country are becoming increasingly generic.


In the midst of these broad social changes and concerns, the concepts of religion and spirituality have re-surfaced as viable practice and educational issues for the profession over the past two decades. In the United States, for example, the revised Code of Social Work Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (1996) and the Council on Social Work Education (2003) now acknowledge that religion and spirituality are vital parts of the cultural diversity of clients. In recognition of the increasingly international scope of social work, the CSWE established the Katherine A. Kendall Institute for International Social Work Education.


The findings from our study bring to the forefront the complexity and challenges of developing globally sensitive and respectful curricula and practice guidelines that also acknowledge each country's religious, spiritual, and professional histories, concerns, and practices. Please see the 'Publications' page for a bibliography of articles and presentations related to the study, and the 'Executive Reports' page for summary statistics from each member country.



Leola E. Furman, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator)

Associate Professor Emeritus of Social Work

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