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Using Judgment and Values in Clinical Social Work

Kim P.

The Christian social worker might believe that God made people in his image. S/he might also believe that a personal relationship with Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is truly what everyone needs. She might believe in traditional biblical values, that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, the way God first designed the institution of marriage (Genesis 2:22-24). She might even teach her own children against pre-marital sex, fornication, adultery, and other forms of sexual immorality. And, while she’s at it, her sin list will also include impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Galations 5:19-21).

She probably knows that before she can take out the speck from her brother’s eye, she must first take out the log from her own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). Recognizing that she is a sinner, like everyone else, each day that she fails through impurity or poor self control reminds her of how much she needs God’s grace and mercy. But can this stance to refrain from exercising judgment really co-exist with upholding Christian beliefs?  The bible is full of clear details about what God desires for His creation and what He abhors. In stark contrast to nonreligious values, the Christian believes in absolute truths and the concept of sin and a God who will judge his creatures’ behavior. Yet, just because she is not a sinless person does not negate her reading of God’s word or the truth of what He teaches us. It was God who defined what sexual immoralities are, not the Christian who understands His word.  According to compellingtruth.org, “Though we are not to judge others in the condemnatory sense explained above [in a hypocritical or self-righteous fashion], we are called to be discerning. We have a responsibility to distinguish good from evil and light from darkness (Isaiah 5:20)” and “When we are submitted to Christ, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to direct us into truth and right judgment (John 16:13).”

Guided by my values, I can help my clients whose lives are falling apart, whether that is their marriage, parenting, or relationships in general. When they seek counseling in my office, I will humbly educate those who are open to hearing about biblical truths as prescribed by God. Instead of shaming them, I will respectfully relate to them as a fellow sinner, who also struggles with sins like temptations, idolatry, shortsightedness or selfishness.  Then with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will encourage each person to see that God’s word is the lamp that guides our path. I will be accepting of these sinful clients as they are, just like Christ accepted the woman caught in adultery and did not condemn her (John 8:2-11). I will help them to forgive themselves and each other, just as God has already forgiven them. But then just as Jesus instructed the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more,” I will use my skills and training as a social worker to illuminate to my struggling clients how to live lives more in line with God’s teaching so that they might also enjoy the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Assuming personal accountability is a significant piece of the growth and healing process. I will utilize client determination, compassion, and truth to help my clients make better choices for themselves and their relationships. And for clients who are not receptive to what I understand as biblical teachings, I will do the same work but in secular language that they can relate to and accept. Still, a client may espouse values that are so anti-biblical that I will then gently let go and let God (deal with him/her). It might not be in God’s timing for this work, or the log in my eye may, indeed, be bigger than the speck in my client’s eyes.

Kim P. is a wife, mother of three, licensed clinical social worker since 2003, and private practice therapist since 2009. She has been a member of NACSW since 2010. Please go to Kim’s website  for more information about her practice.

8 thoughts on “Using Judgment and Values in Clinical Social Work

  1. Thanks for your post, Kim. As Christian therapists, we cannot deny that sin can have an impact on emotional/mental/behavioral health. Every client deserves the opportunity for holistic treatment, and that includes exploring their faith and integrating that into their lives.

  2. Kim, this is an excellent article! This piece is a great reminder for all Christians to examine ourselves daily as the bible instructs. This article is full of sound doctrine and little nuggets that everyone who reads it can apply in his or her daily life. Thank you for choosing not to dim your light. Continue to let your light shine.

  3. I appreciate your honesty, humility and wisdom in navigating spiritual issues with personal integrity. I especially found your thoughts expressed in the last paragraph integral to helping clients.

  4. This is what I struggle with on a daily basis as a counselor for people with moderate to severe mental illnesses. I work in a secular agency and have to walk a tight line between sharing the Biblical truth and also doing so in such a way that I don't jeopardize my position or anger clients who do not want to hear a "religious" perspective. It's a constant struggle and one that I succeed at some days and don't on others. Your article helps me know that I am not alone in this! Thanks for writing it!

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