2005 CONFERENCE—Presentations and Workshops
Discerning the Spirit:
Reimagined Social Work
Fourth Annual Canadian Conference
on Spirituality and Social Work
May 26-28, 2005
University of Western Ontario
Thursday, May 26th
6 p.m. – 7 p.m. Registration and Reception
7 p.m. – 9 p.m. KEYNOTE ADDRESS
“Holiness as Responsibility for the Other”
Rabbi Dow Marmur
Friday, May 27th 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
“The Spirit of a Child: Nurturing the Innate Spirituality of our Children and Youth”
Tamika Schilbe, MSW, RSW, RYT
As Social Workers working with children, we have been given the incredible opportunity to touch the future as we inspire young lives. We know that improving the social and emotional development of children is within our mandate, and yet how do we program for their spiritual needs in a way that honors all religions and cultures? Using a cross-curricular approach, Social Workers and entire departments/agencies can help build spirit by incorporating mindfulness practices, symbolic & creative rituals, imagination exploration and intuition-enhancing activities that promote the development of the mind-body-spirit self.
Using a combination of experiential and discussion format learning and incorporating yoga philosophy, the intention for this workshop is to provide practical tools, and also help practitioners feel more confident about spirit-building with children and youth.
“Anishnabec Hand Drumming as Native-Centered Social Work Practice”
Barbara Waterfall, PhD candidate, Wilfrid Laurier University
“Making music, drumming and dancing were ceremonies in and of themselves – spiritual acts that connected the ‘artist’ to her own spirit, her community, her ancestors, all her relations and certainly the Creator. Music, as any other art form in our pre-colonial societies, was not a commodity to be bought, sold, owned or collected. ... Our music had a function. ... Music was a medium for passing on values, history and news. It was a form of communicating thoughts and feelings. Music renewed people to develop social skills and engage in community activities. Through music, we collaborated, co-operated, co-ordinated, laughed and healed” (Amadahy, 2003: 144-145).
This will be an experiential workshop. Participants are encouraged to come with an open mind and heart, and to be willing to participate in an Anishnabec-centered process. It will begin will the burning of traditional Native medicines, prayer and the lighting of candles. Each candle lit will represent the ethical values which underpin all Anishnabec epistemologies and practices. We will be seated in a circle preferably on the floor. We will be encouraged to take off all false pretenses of hierarchical power and influence. We will create a space where we can exist as equal beings with respect for each other’s diversity.
The purpose of this workshop is two-fold. The first objective is to disrupt what Graveline (1998) & Hart (2002) have described as a dominating and imposing notion that all legitimate social work knowledges must ascribe to standard, or Eurocentric social work rules of conduct and practice. Battiste & Henderson (2000); Dei (2000a); Dei, Hall & Rosenburg (2000); Harding (1998); Minh-ha (1988); Roberts (1998); Semali & Kinchelo (1999); Some (1999); Mihesuah (2003); Mihesuah & Wilson (2004) and Wane & Waterfall, (In Press) have asserted that there are multiple of knowledges and ways of doing things. Hence, I argue that as a profession we need to understand and effectively respond to multi-centric theories and methods of social work practice. My thinking about this has been informed by Asante (2003) & Dei, (2000b). The second aim of this workshop is thus to foster cross-cultural understanding and respect, and to develop alliances with spiritually minded social work educators, students and practitioners. Within this spirit, as facilitator/presenter I will guide participants through a hand drumming journey for the purpose of discovering an embodied awareness of Anishnabec drumming as one particular form of Native-centered social work practice.
Diverse peoples and perspectives will be most welcome in this workshop. Participants should bring comfortable clothing and come prepared to participate and to have fun. The proposed length for this workshop is 90 minutes. This experiential activity is informed by a spiritual ontology that has implications for social work research,teaching and practice. It has been created for persons with specific interests in Native, cross-cultural, radical, feminist, anti-racist, anti-oppressive, structural, empowerment, strength-based and resiliency social work perspectives. As a particular praxis this workshop has been designed to foster social change.
“Mourning the loss of a loved one: A spiritual Journey”
Patricia Slade, MSW, Redeemer College
Death is always more than a physical experience. Death means mourning a loss not only outside, but inside of yourself as well. At times, overwhelming sadness and loneliness are constant companions. The experience of grief and mourning is indeed an individual one, yet not a journey one should do alone. The journey of grief is often a journey into the wilderness of the soul.
The workshop will look at way to facilitate a person’s coping with grief, using a companionship model and group methods. The companioning method was developed by Dr. Alan Wolfelt and has been used as a basis for grief support in both individual and group settings. It reflects an empowerment and strengths model of practice, compatible with anti-oppressive models of work. Groups incorporate both empowerment and self help dynamics, with an emphasis on trust, safety and healing.
Muslim Social Services in Canada
Shahina Siddiqui, President, Islamic Social Services Association, Canada
It is projected that by 2017 the Muslim population in Canada would have risen to over a million. Canadian Muslims constitute the fastest growing population in Canada.
With this rapid growth come social issues that we see on the rise in Muslim Communities across Canada. Issues relating to marriage breakup, domestic violence, unemployment, poverty, lack of youth services and clash of values. Intergenerational disconnect, a growing number of converts and Inter Racial Marriages, are also occurring. All these issues, though not particular to the Muslim community, do pose a special challenge when dealing with Muslims in the context of providing social services.
Muslims have unique needs and world view that is saturated with their faith values. Spirituality is integrated into a Muslim’s life defining how he /she will approach life challenges, resolve conflicts, take action, respond to tragedies and seek help. This workshop will provide practical insights, know how and spiritual/cultural literacy into helping Muslims and providing social services to Muslims.
“The Muslims in New York Project: Social Service Delivery”
John Graham, PhD, University of Calgary
This paper provides highlights of John Graham’s involvement in a seven year research project funded by a Ford Foundation grant at Columbia University, New York City. The grant involved some 15 scholars from a variety of social science and humanities disciplines, and examined Muslims in New York prior to and after September 1, 2001, on such issues as acculturation among Muslim peoples, Sufi mysticism, media representations of Islam, mosques as cultural and social support centres, artistic representations within Muslim communities, Muslim youth in a changing world, and social service delivery. As the team’s social services expert, Graham and a research assistant interviewed 40 key informants who provided insight into eminent social service practices with Muslim peoples in New York City’s five boroughs. Graham argues that social service theory and methods need to be localized to the contexts in which they are carried out; this involves considerable adaptation of the social work canon, including a more culturally responsive approach to incidental encounters, dual relationships, informal approaches to intervention, group as opposed to individual treatment, and more culturally responsive conceptions of pathways to care.
“Spirituality in the Workplace From a Theoretical and Practical Perspective”
Sharlene Weitzman, MSW, RSW, IBECPT
In this paper I will investigate the polarities of the ecological verses technological consciousness as proposed by Skolimowski and how these seeming opposites influence spirituality in my daily work as a clinical social worker.
Spirit and religion are necessary components for the development of one another. Science, nature, soul and consciousness are also necessary colleagues in the process of achieving spirituality. Rather than seeing spirituality as an entity, separate and unto itself, great thinkers such as Einstein and Jung see this combination of interior and exterior, science and creativity as the seeds that together bear the fruits of spirituality. Thus, science, creativity and spirituality become brethren who exist to mutually enhance one another. While theory and education are seen as valuable, the connection between souls is the most important part of the therapeutic process.
I will examine how this philosophical base informs practice. As the social worker who has hopefully tended to his or her own psychic and spiritual crops now becomes an active participant who works with the client, not as an all knowing professional who is removed from their internal struggle, but as a companion working collaboratively towards a mutual goal.
“Spirituality and Wellness”
Annemarie Gockel, PhD student, University of British Columbia
The practice of spirituality has changed significantly both inside and outside of mainstream traditions in North America. This papers uses the “new age” movement to explore some of these recent changes and examine how spirituality is being explicitly and instrumentally linked to the physical and psychological wellness. This discourse may be seen as providing a counter-narrative to professional counseling, psychology, and social work. The exposition will focus on the implications and lessons to be gained for the profession from the “new age” movement as an exemplar of this new discourse on spirituality.
“Spirituality Among African Canadians: A Key to Survival”
Wanda Thomas Bernard, PhD, Dalhousie University
David Este, PhD, University of Calgary
This paper will examine the role of spirituality in the lives of African Canadians in three major cities. It will begin with a review of the Canadian literature on spirituality and social work, and Africentric perspectives on spirituality. The authors will then present data from a pan Canadian study, The Racism, Violence and Health research project, which is studying the differential impact of witnessing and surviving individual and systemic racism on the health and well-being of Black men, their families and communities. The study takes place in Halifax, Toronto and Calgary, and the significance of spirituality has already emerged in preliminary analysis of the data from the Halifax site. Utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data from the three sites, the authors explore the role and influence of spirituality in the daily lives of African Canadians, exploring similarities and differences across ethnicity, age and gender in the three sites. The authors will conclude with a discussion of implications for social work practice with African Canadians, and recommendations for professional education.
“Becoming a Welcoming Community – A Mennonite Case Example”
Cheryl Farris-Manning, MSW student, Carleton University
The enduring nature of exclusionary rhetoric at local, provincial, and national levels within the Mennonite Church demonstrates the extent to which full participation of queer (an inclusive term representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered) individuals in congregational life is limited. This paper will present an argument for social change within the Mennonite Church, as rooted in an understanding of the Anabaptist tradition of radical action.
The case of one Mennonite church will be presented as an example of the very early stages of community action at work. It can be argued that this particular church only tacitly adheres to the doctrine of the wider church, choosing rather to provide witness to its welcoming stance through the actions of people who make up the church. Diversity is celebrated in the life of this congregation. The author purports, however, that despite genuine attempts to be inclusive, silence with respect to church doctrine implies consent to the messages that are relayed through conference statements. The Brethren and Mennonite Council’s Supportive Congregations Network demonstrates organized social action within the broader Mennonite community. Possible next steps for community action at the local level are presented.
Friday, May 27th 10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
“Personal Empowerment and Professional Discernment Through Breath Relaxation, Bio-Spiritual-Music-focus Energetics©™ (2000), and Music-Meditation: The Enlightening Dimension of Social Work”
Wilfred Gallant, PhD, University of Windsor
This hands-on, pragmatic, experiential workshop will engage professionals to a spiritual enlightenment and transformation within a sacred, ritual space. It will provide bio-psycho-spiritual, awareness of one’s inner reflective energy through the effective application of 1) Breath-Relaxation, 2) Bio-Spiritual – Music-Focus Energetics ©™ (2000), and 3) Music Meditation. Participants will learn how to apply these empirically tested approaches first, with themselves and subsequently, with clients and/or students in their practice. Participants will be instructed on the use of two assessment and evaluation tools for these interventions, namely: 1) the Music Impact Inventory Scale (MIIS), and 2) the Client's Overall Perception of Worker’s Use of Bio-Spiritual Focusing Assessment Tool.
Music Relaxation has been time-tested as a systematic means for achieving inner peace and tranquillity. Bio-Spiritual – Music-Focus Energetics ©™ (2000) has been proven to be helpful in deepening the felt-sense of ones inner journey. Music Meditation is a powerful tool for inner dialogue and metenoia (change of heart). This practical presentation will demonstrate the outcome that music-focused meditation can have in effecting change in oneself and potentially in clients. The Music Impact Inventory Scale (MIIS), [Short Form and Long Form] will demonstrate both a quantitative and qualitative means respectively of gathering information for enhanced self-directive empathy and judicious self-exploration. A unique means of journal writing will also be provided.
It is hoped that participants will walk away with a greater appreciation of the bio-psycho-spiritual dimensions of these three integral musical dimensions in 1) the re-imaging of social work and 2) in the of re-awakening of instrumentality of the self as a means of effective professional practice.
Workshop participants will:
1. Learn ways to determine their own aptitude for adapting 1) Breath-Relaxation, 2) Bio-Spiritual – Music-Focus Energetics ©™ (2000), and 3) Music Meditation to their own personal lives and the lives of clients.
2.Consider the application of: 1) the Music Impact Inventory Scale (MIIS), and 2) the Client's Overall Perception of Worker’s Use of Bio-Spiritual Focusing Assessment Tool.
3.Explore the role of Journaling as a refined means of self-discovery.
“Mapping the Body: the Journey to the Soul”
Sara Davidson, River Stone Healing Centre
In the body there are seven energy centres, called chakras, that embody discreet physical, emotional, mental and spiritual characteristics and potential. Each chakra marks a stage in psychosocial development, and encodes experiences from infancy through adulthood. This can lead to vibrant, flourishing chakras, or ones blocked with traumatic wounding. In the early 20th century, Wilhelm Reich developed the system of Character Structures, which emerge in individuals as reactions to trauma and untenable stress during infancy and childhood. His pioneering work was a crucial contribution to modern psychotherapy. Correlations have been made since between Character Structure traits and chakra wound traits.
This workshop will explore the charka system, Character Structures, the psychosocial role each chakra plays in our development, expression of self, and relationships. Woven in will be how chakra wounds lead to disempowering belief systems, dysfunctional relationships, and addictions. Through guided visualization/meditation participants will journey back through their own chakra development, exploring the potential impact family, environment, and community can have on each chakra, and the Character Structure that can develop. This will add to participants= understanding of how life experiences manifest physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and how to engage in a deeply resonant healing process through the chakras.
“You call that spiritual practice: discerning practice – yours, mine, and ours”
Gloria Kropf Nafziger, MSW, RSW, New Directions Counselling
This workshop will be presented using the bias that mutual relationship (Carter Heyward, Jean Baker Miller) is a crucial element in healing. It is also offered with the premise that in order to have satisfying mutual relationship we must “recover our soul (s)” (Larry Dossey). A third and final premise of this workshop is that this can best be done with awareness and development of spiritual practices that are congruent with our religious understandings.
In this workshop we will address our biases as clinicians around right therapeutic practice as it relates to our clients’ spirituality and ours. As a participant you will be invited through conversation and creative exercise to gain an understanding of how spiritual practice can be used as a tool within the therapeutic relationship to develop and model the value of mutual relationship. This understanding will be used to develop sensitivity to and recognition of the diversity and strength of individual’s spiritual practice and its value in the healing process
1. To address fears of spiritual/religious diversity;
2. To help us as clinicians recognize and name our biases in regards to spiritual practice;
3. To define techniques for clinicians that encourage clients to use spiritual practice for personal healing;
4. To introduce tools that can be used across the continuum of religious beliefs.
“Toward competency in spiritual assessment: A review and analysis of various spiritual assessment approaches”
David Hodge, PhD, University of Pennsylvania
Social workers are increasingly being called upon to conduct spiritual assessments, yet few assessment methods have appeared in the academic literature. This PowerPoint-based presentation reviews a complementary set of five recently developed assessment approaches. More specifically, one verbal model is discussed, spiritual histories, along with four diagrammatic approaches: spiritual lifemaps, spiritual genograms, spiritual ecomaps, and spiritual ecograms. After presenting a number of rationales for the importance of conducting a spiritual assessment, a brief overview of each assessment instrument is provided, along with a case example that illustrates how the assessment tool might be provided, along with a case example that illustrates how the assessment tool might to used with a client. The various strengths and weakness of each instrument are delineated so that practitioners can select the most appropriate assessment instrument in a given client/practitioner interface. In addition, the distinctions between a “brief” and “comprehensive” assessment are discussed and two brief assessment models are presented. Tips are provided on conducting a spiritual assessment in a culturally sensitive manner and a number of empirically based spiritual interventions are overviewed.
“Spirituality and Clinical Research”
Diana Coholic, PhD, Laurentian University
Researchers are beginning to study connections between the mind, body and spirit. This research points towards a more holistic view of health and the investigation of the spiritual dimension in people’s lives. One of the recurrent practice themes in the social work and spirituality research literature is the viewpoint that attending to the spiritual dimension in helping creates a more meaningful and effective helping process. The current dilemma is that these beliefs are primarily based on sole clinician’s reports. The idea that the inclusion of spirituality fosters effective client change has not been investigated by way of research. In order to learn more about how spiritually-influenced helping occurs and to improve this practice, studies that examine its helpfulness are necessary. This paper presentation considers the author’s research investigations in this area and explores how research participants involved in a spiritually-influenced therapeutic group perceived the helpfulness of this clinical social work practice.
“W.Wilberforce and T.Chalmers evangelical Christianity as bases for Chalmers Charitable Method reforming community and individual activities in secular and spiritual realms”
Joel Majonis, PhD, University of Waterloo
William Wilberforce’s (1759-1833) Evangelical ideas discussed Christ’s self-sacrifice and expiation of Original Sin, communion, and provision of grace reforming participating persons and society to a “vital Christianity” of caring and moral activities. Wilberforce and Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) met, corresponded, made favourable references regarding each other’s Evangelical ideas and reformist efforts influencing Chalmers’s ideas regarding community and individual reform of their social, psychological and spiritual activities. Initially, Chalmers adhered to Calvin’s ideas of God predestining elected individuals to receive grace, develop faith and perceive Christ in all things. After Chalmers’ evangelical conversion, he urged individuals to use grace to strengthen themselves and act morally conforming to divine laws achieving salvation. Chalmers stated that individuals engaged in a secular process of reciprocal caring and moral activities resulting in their spiritual salvation. Chalmers incorporated Christ’s reformatory process of self-sacrifice, communion and expiation of Original Sin in a charitable method in parish-level schools instructing students in Christianity along with ministers or deacons encouraging moral problem-solving and instruction of the poor. A connection is discussed about Chalmers’ reciprocal charitable activities and method, Charles S. Loch’s “social reciprocities” within an increasingly complex charitable method, and Mary E. Richmond’s social work method of social diagnosis and treatment encouraging client mutual and self-helping processes.
“Social Work and Politically Engaged Spirituality”
Barb Swartzentruber, MSW, PhD student, University of Guelph
Economic globalization driven by neo-liberal values has served to intensify the experiences of isolation, poverty and powerlessness for individuals and communities. Global civil society organizations and transnational advocacy groups have been working to articulate alternative visions of global world community that are based on an inclusive, emancipatory and life-affirming set of values and ethics that recognise the moral and spiritual as well as material dimensions of life. The work of Hans Kung and the Parliament of the World's Religions to put forward a multi-faith global moral ethic to guide economic policy and the emerging global world order will be explored in this regard as well work from the United Nations on the Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Social Development. Increasingly, a “political engaged spirituality” (Faulk, 2003) is called for to address issues on both the global and local levels to ensure a sustainable future. The implications for social work will be discussed.
“Spiritualité et service social: un tandem inséparable”
Mohammed Khalid, PhD, Université du Québec
Le souci constant et le défi majeur des travailleurs sociaux consistent à améliorer les conditions et la qualité de vie de leurs systèmes-clients. Derrière cette finalité se profile l'idéal d'une formation adaptée aux besoins de la population desservie. Or, un simple coup d'oeil sur les programmes de formation en service social nous fait découvrir la presque totale occultation de la dimension spirituelle de l'éventail de connaissances et de compétences inculquées aux étudiants en formation. D'où provient cette négation d'un phénomène si primordial qu'est la spiritualité?
L'auteur de cette communication s'y attarde et propose, sans nécessairement retourner à la case départ, des moyens de créer ou de renforcer les passerelles entre la spiritualité et le service social, deux secteurs traditionnellement unis mais de plus en plus séparés de nos jours.
Friday, May 27th 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
“A Reflective Musical Experience: The Empowerment of Spiritually-Oriented Music in Education and Practice”
Laura E. Taylor, PhD, University of Windsor
Wilfred Gallant, PhD, University of Windsor
The presenters will demonstrate the use of the Music Impact Inventory Scale (Part III) and show how a client used it to get in touch with her feelings of grief and her feelings of spirituality.
The audience will engage in their own experience of the use of the Music Impact Inventory Scale (MIIS) which has established validity and reliability and share their responses with the group from a selected song. Participants will then be invited to select one of their favourite songs and provide their own reaction to using the MIIS. It is our hope that the participants will find this exercise beneficial in using music with their clients or social work educators with their students.
Music has been proven to be helpful as a therapeutic tool and as a means for tapping into ones spirituality. This workshop is designed and directed to help social workers discover a comfort level in using music and the MIIS in their work with clients and as educators in their use with students in the classroom. This presenters will also show how music can be used in a variety of social work courses such as addictions, social welfare, cultural diversity, mental health, women’s issues, interactional skills, group work, labour relations and theory and practice courses.
It is hoped that participants will walk away with a greater appreciation of integrating music and practice and in using music as means of building awareness of spirituality, personally and professionally within the context of social work education and practice..
Workshop participants will:
1.Learn the theory and philosophy behind the MIIS
2.Engage in work with the Scale through hands-on-experience for use in their own personal lives and the lives of clients and students. Participants will be invited to use the MIIS on one of their own favourite songs, reflect on the key words and meaning and share their responses with the group.
“Widening the Lens to Deepen the Practice”
Mary Leslie, MSW, Vancouver Coastal Health
There has been an increase in articles and books addressing spirituality and professional social work practice in recent years, and many of these address spirituality from the perspective of the clients, or interventions of assessment, or treatment approaches. This workshop will focus on the "lens" through which the client and practice is
viewed, addressing the more internal processes of the social worker, such as intention, assumptions and beliefs, and the impact of these factors on outcomes of practice. Theory and research to support this discussion will be drawn from wholistic approaches, such as the work of Virginia Satir, Focusing (Eugene Gendlin),Joan Halifax (unpublished), and Zimmerman and Coyle (the Way of Council) as well as some of the more recent literature on the body/mind research relating to non local mind, extended mind, intentiality and therapeutic use of self (Virginia Satir
and Carl Rogers).
The experiential workshop will use an interactional approach to help to bring greater consciousness and awareness to the "lens" as well as to explore ways the "lens" can be widened or shifted, with positive outcomes for both clients and the practitioner. Issues of self care for the social worker will be referenced. Examples of practice, highlighting the use of intention, assumptions and a 'wider lens' with individuals and groups will be documented,drawing on the presenter's experience/practice with individuals in oncology and palliative care and use of 'council' with groups of cancer patients. If time permits the workshop will conclude with the experience of a brief healing circle or council.
“Examining the Role and Practice of Social Work Within the Catholic Church”
Joanne Johnston, BSW student, University of Western Ontario, King’s College
I will be discussing the different roles and functions of members of a pastoral team (priest, deacon, parish nurse, lay minister, administration) and comparing them to the role of social work, then discussing how social work would enhance the pastoral team for the benefit of the individual parishioner, the greater community parish, and the church community.
“Dual Identity: The Experience of Gay Christian Males”
Tim Dueck, MSW student, University of British Columbia
In a society that traditionally considers same-sex individuals and Christianity to be at odds, men who identify as both gay and Christian rarely have the opportunity to have their voices heard. This presentation explores the findings of recent qualitative research conducted to examine the dynamic of a dual identity generally dismissed by many as an oxymoron. Highlights of discussion include participant’s reported sense of self and reflections regarding experience of “community”.
“Nurturing Competence with Uncertainty: A Place for Spirituality and Transformative Learning in Social Work”
John Coates, PhD, St. Thomas University
Professional social workers, like people everywhere, are limited by their own developmental and socialized boundaries. In social work, expert driven educational models while imparting knowledge considered useful for practice, can be seen to excessively socialize students by rewarding competitive and individualized outcomes. Expert driven models limit the social worker’s capacity for a practice that fosters personal and social transformation. Transformative learning has critiqued the colonizing reality of traditional, “fill me up” educational models which, while imparting knowledge, frequently stifle creativity and the ability of social workers to deal with what they do not know. This paper will review the role that spirituality and transformative learning can play in enabling social work students to be proactive, and capable of enabling people and communities to move into areas that are new and uncertain.
“All the stories that I carry: encountering the spiritual in clinical work”
Eunice Gorman, PhD candidate, University of Toronto
A clinical social workers we are uniquely positioned to enter into the life worlds of those that we encounter in the therapeutic relationship. Palliative care, in particular, is a setting that lends itself to the sharing of hard fought wisdom, lessons for living, seeking, renewal, hope, forgiveness and compassion. By being present at the end of life we are privileged with ongoing opportunities to listen to often deeply moving, honest, and compelling life stories and legacy work. This presentation will challenge the social work practitioner to engage actively in inquiry, reflection, self awareness and sense of connection with our clients, colleagues, family, friends and communities by illustrating examples of embracing the stories that we carry and incorporating them into our personal spirituality. The presenter and the participants will co-construct a brief list of ways to be receptive to loss narratives by creating private meanings that we can translate to our professional and personal relationships.
“Embodied Spirituality: Oromo Women Performing Ateetee in Exile”
Martha Kuwee Kumsa, PhD, Wilfrid Laurier University
This paper presents preliminary findings from an ongoing grassroots study stemming from a community-based initiative of Oromo spiritual revival. Oppressed and exiled from Ethiopia, Oromo refugees are flung far and wide and globalized. Finding themselves painfully separated from their people in the homeland and alienated from the mainstream of their host countries, they seek solace in reclaiming their ancient ancestral spirituality. By so doing, they strive to heal their wounds and survive in a hostile world (Gutierrez & Lewis, 1999). The data for the study are generated through ethnographic participation and analyzed by using critically reflexive methodology.
This paper focuses on Oromo women’s birth rituals performed in five sites across North America. A critical analysis of the literature reveals a ‘false’ dichotomy between the spiritual and the material worlds that reinforces the mind/body split so entrenched in Western thought. Building on studies that explore the relationship between spirituality, resilience and healing (Banerjee & Pyles, 2004; Malinski, 2002), spirituality and community (Chile & Simpson, 2004), and spirituality and relationality (Geertsma & Cummings, 2004), this paper argues that the material and the spiritual are intimately and inextricably interwoven. Disputing the mind/body split, the paper argues that Oromo women perform embodied spirituality to reterritorialize and to soothe the wounds of the nation. It also contests the assumption that technology fragments the soul, arguing that, intimately interwoven with its fragmenting function, technology also plays the simultaneous role of enhancing spirituality and congealing dispersed communities. Implications for transformative community practice are discussed.
“Calling the spirit on Turtle Island: aboriginal language use today for healing in North America, guess we aren’t all in England or France after all!”
Paul Tamburro, PhD candidate, Thompson Rivers University (University College of the Cariboo)
Aboriginal people have suffered from genocide leading to loss of language, culture and identity. This has caused a gap between a "healthy" past and a "dysfunctional" present. The term "soul loss" is sometimes used to describe this condition (Duran & Duran 1995). What may be considered "spiritual recovery” is occurring through the use of language to index a traditional way of life. In North America the languages of two linguistic groups, Siouan and Algonquian, have been the main sources for remaking connections to spiritual identity. By combining academic discourse from social work, linguistics and anthropology with participant research, the author examines how aspects of these Aboriginal languages are being used to build connections between a secular non-Native perspectives and "spiritual traditional" life leading to healing through spiritual reconnection. This results in personal empowerment for individuals and social change for communities. Today, even non-native speakers of Aboriginal languages utilize language to index a spiritual connection. In the healing context, formerly secular words are redefined as spiritual (Powers 1986). It is important for social workers to understand the connection between the re-introduction of language use, "traditional" healing and spirituality for some Aboriginal clients.
“Talking Religiosity and sexual diversity/From the hallway into the classroom: case study of the diversity matters video”
Ginette LaFreniere, Stephen Hendricks and Diane Wray: Wilfred Laurier University
In November 2004, a group of students, a videographer and an instructor shot a video on the challenges of diversity within the context of social work education. The result was a raw and honest attempt at engaging dialogue on a subject which is at often times uncomfortable for social work students. The presenters will share the process upon which the video was orchestrated. Additionally, their views on the importance of creating spaces for dialogue on the subject matter of religiosity and sexual diversity will be discussed as well as a critique of the limits of anti-oppressive practice as it relates to the nature of this discussion.
Friday, May 27th 3:15 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
1. Spirituality and the Workplace:
Richard Csiernik, MSW, PhD, King's College, University of Western Ontario
2. Spirituality and Research:
Diana Coholic, MSW, PhD, Laurentian University
David Hodge, PhD, University of Pennsylvania
Saturday, May 28th 9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.
PANEL AND DISCUSSION: Invited Presentations
Spirituality from an Interdisciplinary Perspective
"Spirituality and Adult Education: An Emergent Perspective"
Al Lauzon, Ed.D., University of Guelph
Historically, the practice of adult education in Canada has embraced an education for social transformation and this has been rooted in a spirituality defined by both the social gospel movement and social democracy movements prevalent in Canada the late 1800s and early 1900s. Post World War II saw the professionalization of the field of adult education in Canada and the rise and dominance of technical rationality and adult education as human resource development. The result was a decline of the historical social mission of adult education. Furthermore, notions of spirituality and faith were viewed as irrational from the perspective of technical rationality and subsequently there was no longer room for spirituality in the practice of the professional adult educator. The 1980s saw a renewed interest in the social mission of adult education in Canada and with this was an increased interest in spirituality and its relationship to the practice of adult education. This presentation will provide a very brief historical overview of the relationship between adult education and spirituality in Canada. The main focus of the presentation, however, will be on the contemporary relationship between adult education and spirituality. First, I will focus on my own spirituality, its development and evolution over time and how it has found expression in my practice as an adult educator, as a researcher, and the personal challenges this has presented. This will be followed by an overview of the issues as it relates to adult education and spirituality identified in the literature. Specifically, it will focus on spirituality and the adult educator, spirituality and the adult learner, spirituality and the educational transaction, and spirituality, adult education and its relationship to social transformation. The presentation will conclude with a personal reflection on where we are “going” and what comes next.
“Historical and Philosophical Obstacles to Psychology’s Potential for Reconciliation with Spiritual and Religious Traditions”
Richard Walsh-Bowers, PhD, Wilfrid Laurier University
Conventionally, undergraduate psychology students are indoctrinated in a discipline that strongly claims it is a legitimate natural science and rejects other sources of knowledge about human nature, including myth, spirituality, and religion. I argue that in adopting the quasi-religion of scientism academic psychologists have repressed the spiritual heritage of psychology to project a public image of their discipline as an objective natural science. As evidence, I review current history of psychology textbooks, demonstrating four points. Textbook authors:  marginalize or eradicate the spiritual and religious practices of famous figures in psychology;  ignore the significance of psychologists’ vigilantly policing their scientific boundaries against such “superstitious” practices as parapsychology;  neglect psychologists’ historically ambivalent struggle with psychoanalysis;  ignore the spiritual embeddedness of indigenous psychologies, e.g., aboriginal knowledge. I conclude by discussing the challenges that face psychologists seeking reconciliation of their discipline with spirituality.
Saturday, May 28th 10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
“Embracing The Sacred in Our Work”
Bonnie Collins, EdM, LCSW, State University of New York at Buffalo
Trina M. Laughlin, LCSW, Rochester, New York
As Social Workers, we are story listener’s who bear witness to other people’s pain and joy. Although the stories being shared are not our actual life experience, the imagery, symbolism, mystery and meaning of the stories we hear, often impacts us on a very personal level. Through the art of story, the presenter’s have harnessed a way to re-energize their own spirituality by exploring the awesome and the tragic in our work.
This experiential workshop will be an opportunity for the attendees to share such “holy moments” in their work, and thereby re-energize their own spirituality. As authors of The Power of Story ( Whole Person Press, 2005), Bonnie Collins, EdM, LCSW, and Trina M. Laughlin, LCSW will facilitate a process of story telling for healing and spiritual self awareness, through the use of writing, and guided imagery.
Workshop objectives include the following:
- To identify specific ways that our own spirits have been depleted,
by the work we do.
- To learn that sharing stories from our work, renews the spirit.
-To experience the benefits of, reduced isolation, and a community of
healthy healers, because of our sharing.
“The Creative Inner Voice”
Dorothea Epple, PhD, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
The Creative Inner Voice is a qualitative study of the experience of fourteen journal writers who used the Ira Progoff Journal Process for eight years or longer. Vignettes in the participants’ own voices, demonstrate the thick, rich description of epiphanies, metaphors and themes as they emerge in the journal writing. These vignettes illustrate the developmental process of each journal writer. The author’s analysis of the vignettes demonstrates that epiphanies that emerge in journal writing have the potential to bring a new view of life and a new action in the world. Rather than just an intellectual understanding, this epiphany often appears for the participants as a result of an image or a series of images that convey meaning at a symbolic level. The imagery process entails leaving behind the logical mind and creating a space where an image can emerge. The image carries the seed for future action and taps a developmental unfolding. The process of journal writing produces images, symbolic meanings of the images, and the initiation of a developmental process or spiritual deepening. This workshop will provide a brief overview of this qualitative dissertation research. Workshop participants will be introduced to experiential journal writing techniques that may be utilized with clients as an adjunct to therapy.
“What if your Spirituality Train is just leaving the station?”
Laura E. Taylor, PhD, University of Windsor
This paper will explore theoretical and practice issues related to the beginning usage of spirituality in the classroom and in practice. It is directed to social work educators who are either just beginning to introduce spirituality as a topic in their classes, are seeking ways to find their own comfort level in integrating spirituality as a part of classroom knowledge and experience, or who have encountered students who have not considered spirituality as a part of social work practice. The question of how spirituality is or should be placed in the social work curriculum will be explored. How does one respond when students proclaim themselves “not spiritual”? The presenter will identify techniques that seem to help students begin to explore this topic, and ways that the instructor comfort level has been developed. It is hoped that this will be in-part an interactive session and that the audience with share their experiences of how they have “re-imagined social work” within the context of spirituality.
The presentation will discuss the role of spirituality in the classroom within the generalist approach to social work practice and within anti-oppressive social work practice. It will explore how spirituality might be effectively promoted in social work education and how social work educators may increase their own comfort level with this topic. It will explore how students can use increased awareness of spirituality in their own professional development. It is hoped that the audience will share some of their experiences either from their on-going development or from issues that their students have identified.
Workshop participants will:
1.To explore how spirituality is effectively introduced and integrated
into a social work classroom
2.To explore how students and instructors can develop a comfort leveL
in their experience of spirituality.
“Seeking the Spiritual in Anti-Oppressive Organizational Change”
Thecla Damianakis, PhD candidate, University of Toronto
Issues of social exclusion are highly pertinent in today's changing global health and social service systems. Anti-oppressive frameworks are well established in both the United Kingdom and North American social work literature as one means of addressing social inequities. The literature in spirituality has grown substantially, establishing initial theoretical models and an empirical trail. The relationship of spirituality to critical social work models including anti-oppressive frameworks have yet to be fully examined. The purpose of this paper is to conceptually explore spirituality to anti-oppressive practice, specifically anti-oppressive organizational change, while investigating the presence of spirituality in a small women-centered agency's four-year engagement in anti-oppressive organizational change. Using qualitative methodology, four in-depth interviews explored the experiences of agency staff and volunteer members during this agency's period of transition. Consistent with previous studies, analysis of the interviews described the importance of critical consciousness in an examination of power, privilege and oppression, and the importance of empowerment approaches to anti-oppressive organizational change. Additionally, and consistent with the spirituality and transpersonal literature, results describe the importance of spirituality in establishing purpose and connection, and in this study, in shaping interpersonal and intrapersonal processes and the quality of the experience of anti-oppressive organizational change. Future research and education addressing social inequities within an anti-oppressive framework should consider the potential role or influence of the spiritual dimension.
“Critically Informed Spirituality”
Michele Butot, MSW, RSW, Victoria Hospice, BC Cancer Agency
Spirituality has emerged as a theme in contemporary social work, creating a myriad of writings, conferences and opinions. However, the definition of spirituality presented is often confusing and problematic, tending to either be concerned with individuals’ sense of personal wellbeing at the expense of commitments to social justice, or veering close to religious connotations with which many of us are uncomfortable.
Contrary to this trend in the mainstream, much critical practice writing; rightly concerned with the frequent appropriativeness of “New-Age” philosophies, and with the attempt of White people to seek refuge from dealing with race, has maintained a stance unwelcoming to spirituality because of fear of a ‘slippery slope’.
This interactive presentation explores spirituality in critical social work as described by participants in a research inquiry on spirituality, love and truth-telling, in order to examine how critical conceptualizations of spirituality might alter the ways we frame social and individual change. Participants will be invited to consider a (re)insertion of spirituality into the discourse of critical theory and practice which might allow our work to become more wholistic and more relevant, and the notion of critically-informed spirituality will be offered as an incitement to others for further research and exploration.
“Incoroprating a Spiritual Component in our Social Work Frameworks”
Ellen Perrault, PhD student, University of Calgary
Most social work perspectives recognize the physical, emotional and cognitive realms of a client. Only a few social work practice frameworks recognize a person’s spiritual inner self as a component. The Strengths, Aboriginal, Integrative, and Systems social work perspectives are introduced as frameworks which hold more potential for attention to spirituality. This paper critically reflects on each broad framwork’s potential to incorporate a spiritual realm. Analysis of the relevance of these theories to the client’s spiritual realm is facilitated and integrated through examples from social work education and practice. Some practical recommendations are provided for integrating spiritual theory with practice and social work education.
“From Piety to Malady: The Spiritual Birth of Anorexia”
Lucinda Kunkel, Medicine 2006, University of Western Ontario
Self starvation began to flourish during the Renaissance (1200-1500 AD) as young women became preoccupied with eating and non-eating as a basic way to express religious ideals. Self-starvers became glorified and emulated as the ability to survive on God’s grace through prayer and eucharist portrayed evidence of a miracle. St. Catherine of Sienna (1347-1380) reportedly existed on a spoon of herbs a day, freely gave away food to those in need, and attested to the ability to communicate with Christ. Through control of appetite, the medieval woman strove for perfection before her God. (Bell 1989)
The Catholic Reformation in 1545 AD influenced religious change as well as a dramatic decline in the incidence of anorexia. Male clergy were very cynical of women who displayed acts of “radical holiness” such as prolonged fasting and “good works” were instead encouraged. (Bell 1989)
Many present day sufferers of anorexia nervosa speak of spiritual undertones for their suffering. (Garrett 1996) Numerous sufferers also feel ineffective due to stress and learned submissive responses. This may lead to behaviors of self denial causing weight loss and, in genetically or neurologically susceptible individuals, a different physiological response to starvation.
Throughout the ages, the incidence of anorexia nervosa increases when the cultural environment is calm, reproduction generally assured and women are highly regarded for aesthetics or piety. In contrast, the incidence of anorexia decreases during war, famine or disease when survival itself is gratifying and women become cherished for their ability to reproduce. Since genetics and culture cannot easily be changed, family and individual therapy would be the best way to battle the emotional comfort anorexia provides. Therapists should avoid power differentials in the therapeutic relationship and utilize cognitive behavioral and attachment based therapies to enhance self efficacy. Parents should be caring yet firm, while creating an environment of unconditional love for their child. This may persuade the woman to relinquish her emotional bond to the illness in the trust that her emotions will be respected by others. (Levenkron 2000)
“Discerning and Transforming Spiritual Trauma: A Harm Reduction-based Approach to Social (Justice) Work”
Edward Kruk,PhD, University of British Columbia
This paper explores aspects of a unique and “marked” form of human suffering – spiritual trauma – associated with physical and/or mental pain, psychological torment, and social exclusion. Although the same event may plunge one person into a state of spiritual trauma and not another, the many faces of such trauma share certain characteristics, such as preoccupation with the painful source of the trauma, and feeling oneself to be enslaved by it; social exclusion, objectification and marginalization; and internalized oppression. Individual and collective human responses to trauma are examined; spiritual trauma is a type of suffering from which others recoil, and the question, “Is it possible for human beings to have true compassion for spiritual trauma?,” is posed. As part of this discussion, the nature of compassion is considered, challenges to discerning spiritual trauma are discussed, and barriers to receiving help for those in the midst of trauma are revealed. It will be argued that social work, the profession most suited to intervene in situations of spiritual trauma due to its phenomenological and holistic perspective and social justice emphasis, has not adequately addressed the needs of those afflicted by spiritual trauma. Finally, a framework for social work practice and education vis-à-vis spiritual trauma is articulated, which goes beyond a rights-based approach, embraces social justice as harm reduction, and focuses on human needs and social obligations, toward the goal of spiritual transformation in such cases.
The writings of social philosopher and activist Simone Weil will inform the discussion, and the perspective of those experiencing spiritual trauma, including those struggling with issues related to addiction, family dislocation and parent-child estrangement, life-threatening illness and serious mental illness will be highlighted.
“Program Evaluation Re-Imagined: Discerning the Spirit of the whole Child Project in Whitehorse, Yukon”
Kim Zapf, PhD, University of Calgary
Following from an actual program evaluation experience in 2004, this presentation attempts to challenge conventional notions of evaluation as an empirical assessment of discrete measurable outputs and focus instead on the vision or active spirit of a community program.
The Whole Child Project (WCP) has been operating out of Whitehorse Elementary School since 2001. Funded by the RCMP’s National Youth Strategy and guided by the proverb “it takes an entire village to raise a child,” the WCP works towards creation of an open and accessible community school to serve as a safe and trusted alternative for families in trouble in the inner city area of Whitehorse. Following three years of funding, an evaluation of the program was required in 2004. Initial expectations were for a conventional quantitative evaluation comparing program inputs and objectives with measured outputs and outcomes. The researcher’s first visit to the program changed all of this.
Encountering the program in its unique and isolated setting, and hearing first-hand accounts from the founders, participants, and community led the researcher to a qualitative approach that allowed for expression of their vision and experiences through their stories – capturing the active spirit of the WCP rather than its objective benchmarks. This paper explores the process, results, and impact of this re-imagined evaluation, with an opportunity for conference participants to experience the spirit of the program.
“The Impact of the Sweatlodge Ceremony for Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual Healing”
Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff, PhD, University of Calgary
Traditional healing as “practices designed to promote mental, physical, and spiritual well-being that are based on beliefs predate western European, ‘scientific bio-medicine’. Recognition of the importance of traditional healing practices for native peoples (Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (1996)) has accelerated a reversal of the historic efforts to eradicate native traditions and created an upsurge of interest in traditional healing practices, including the sweatlodge ceremony. Increasingly sweat lodges are incorporated into healing programs that serve aboriginal people. Sweat lodge ceremonies have also been compared to group therapy processes (Colmant and Merta, 1999; Walkingstick-Garett and Osborne, 1995), although these comparisons minimize the importance of the spiritual element of sweat lodge ceremonies. Despite that fact that traditional healing practices have been valued by native peoples for as long as oral tradition has been alive there is virtually no research on the efficacy of these methods. This presentation describes the results of a pilot study on the impact of the sweat lodge ceremony on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual domains of individual participants. The study format includes both quantitative and qualitative components. Results indicate that there are measurable changes in spiritual, emotional and physical well-being.
Saturday, May 28th 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
PANEL AND DISCUSSION: Spirituality and Practice:
Sally Cozens, MSW, London Interfaith Counselling Centre
Andrew Feron, MSW, Parkwood Hospital, London
Gloria Knopf Nafziger, MSW, RSW, New Directions Counselling
Wanda Wagler Martin, MSW, Shalom Counselling Services, Waterloo