The Value of Incorporating Spirituality Into Mental Health Practice: A Professional Imperative for the Global 21st Century


Spirituality is increasingly recognized as a critical yet challenging and often neglected aspect of effective, ethical, and holistic mental health practice. It is perhaps imperative that mental health professionals incorporate this essential element into contemporary practice, especially considering the rapidly and radically changing world. The U.S. is becoming more diverse and divisive. While spirituality encompasses the narrowly defined aspect of religion, it is a distinctly different concept that promotes universal human connections that potentially unite rather than divide individuals and groups. Social work in the U.S. has a long-standing tradition that values spirituality as integral to education and practice. Both the Council on Social Work Education, the national accrediting body, and the National Association of Social Workers, the main professional organization, explicitly include spirituality in their respective policies and standards for competent, multi-cultural practice. A solid scholarly literature, including numerous national and international journals, address this topic. Recent research indicates that social workers and other mental health practitioners in the U.S. report positive attitudes, particularly toward mindfulness-based interventions, and high levels of self-awareness. Yet, studies also find reluctance regarding potential value dilemmas and ethical conflicts. This presentation examines these core concerns and possible problems while arguing for continued and further integration of spirituality into mental health practice consistent with educational and professional standards. Given the shifting demographic patterns and cultural conflict emerging in the U.S., Europe, and beyond, this is more important than ever. Spiritual sensitivity is now imperative for competent practice and professional integrity in the global 21st century.

Author Information
Catherine A. Hawkins, Texas State University, United States
Raymond C. Hawkins, Fielding Graduate University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ECP2019
Stream: Mental Health

This paper is part of the ECP2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon