For much of the twentieth century, professional social work sought to distance itself from its religious origins with the consequence being that the role of spirituality in the lives of service users tended to be sidelined. Yet it is clear that many people begin to explore their spirituality precisely at times when they are trying to make sense of difficult life circumstances or experiences and may come into contact with social workers. In recent years, there has been an increasing understanding that in order to be relevant to the lives of people they work with, social workers need to go beyond their material needs, but there is little understanding of how spirituality can be sensitively incorporated into practice, especially when either practitioners or service users have no religious affiliation or there is no shared religious background. In this pathbreaking volume Beth Crisp offers social workers ideas of beginning conversations in which spiritual values and beliefs may surface, allowing service users to respond from their own framework and to begin to discuss the specific religious or spiritual practices and beliefs which are important to them. She considers spirituality in the context of lived experience, a perspective that she argues breaks down any mystique and suspicion of explicitly religious language by focusing on language and experiences with which most people can identify. Such a framework allows exploration of issues that emerge at different stages in the lifespan, both by persons who are religious and those who do not identify with any formal religion. Most literature on spirituality within social work refers to the elderly, to those who are sick or have been bereaved, yet, as Crisp points out, spirituality is important for people of all ages and not just at seemingly exceptional moments.
Beth R. Crisp is currently Associate Professor of Social Work at Deakin University in Australia. She was previously Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Glasgow. Her previous publications include Learning and Teaching in Social Work Education: Assessment (2003) and Learning and Teaching in Social Work Education: Textbooks and Frameworks on Assessment (2005), both co-authored with Mark R. Anderson, Joan Orme and Pam Green Lister, published by Policy Press on behalf of the Social Care Institute for Excellence as key resources for social work educators. She has published articles on spirituality in journals including The Way and Theology and Sexuality.
'Social workers could do no better than explore questions of meaning and reconsider what is important in their professional lives at this time by engaging with Beth Crisp’s "lived-experience" approach and its demystification of spirituality in social work. Crisp effectively convinces that spirituality is a valid and enriching area of exploration for social work.' Mel Gray, University of Newcastle, Australia 'Spirituality and Social Work is a very valuable resource for introducing people to the many ways that spirituality is part of our lives. In particular, it will be very relevant for students as the focus on everyday experiences and activities, and life stages discusses spirituality and diverse views without jargon and religious overtones. While referencing the potential relationships between spiritualities and religions, this book will be refreshing for those who are interested in spirituality but do not identify with a particular religion, and for all who wish to explore the potential of spirituality in everyday life. The absence of language loaded with baggage lends this book nicely as an easier introduction for those who are alienated from religion/spirituality and as a door opener for those on pre-determined paths. As I read through chapters I developed new insights and new understandings of commonly used terms, and I appreciated the discussions of how spirituality might be manifested at different stages and at different places in life’s journey. It is a welcome and important contribution to the literature of spirituality and social work, and I see it as a valuable introductory text for students and people interested in exploring the many diverse ways that spirituality is present in our lives.' John Coates, St. Thomas University, and Canadian Society for Spirituality and Social Work, Canada 'It is worth noting that Crisp draws extensively on a variety of sources in the literature, frequently citing material from this journal and many familiar voices