Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) account for the maximum number of clinically trained helping professionals in the US. A new study has revealed that discussion on religion and spirituality can often lead to improved physical and mental health, but clinical social workers are not integrating these conversations into their counseling sessions.
Holly Oxhandler from Baylor University said, "It's that big elephant in the room. If we ignore it, we are ignoring a huge component of their lives that may be tied to the clinical issue."
For the study, the researchers surveyed 442 LCSWs across the US and observed more than 80% of LCSWs responded favorably on most of the survey items. They had positive attitudes regarding the integration of their clients' religion and spirituality into their discussions.
Oxhandler further added, "They are confident in their abilities to assess and discuss their clients' beliefs, and find it feasible to do so. But they are not doing it. I'm still boggled by the fact that they are so disconnected between their views and their behaviors. From the 1920s to the 1970s, there was a push for what is called the 'medical model' of practice, which had no mention of religion or spirituality because there was no research to support the discussion about clients' faith and practice during that time. It was not until the 1980s when some researchers were saying, 'Well, it's kind of an important area of their clients' culture that we need to be considering in clinical practice'."
The researchers feel that social workers should be trained to learn about religions other than their own. Oxyhandler said, "If you're a Christian social worker working in a medical setting and you have a Muslim client who's in the hospital, how do you know that she needs to be positioned a certain way within her room when she prays five times a day?"
The study was published in Social Work.