As a social work educator, I find that I use my faith every day as a social worker even though I am not doing direct practice. I use my faith for personal strength as I go about my job as an educator. I need the Lord to guide me in my interactions with students and in my role as a mentor and role model for them. I need to rely on my Christian values as I work with colleagues and other professionals both within and outside the university setting. As a Christian, I want to be respectful, act in a dignified manner, and treat others with dignity, and I know that I need help in doing so because of my strong personality and passion for social work and life in general.
I often find myself discussing issues related to faith in the classroom, even when I am not intending to do so. Certainly I discuss the integration process on a formal basis in practice courses and field seminar. Working with clients who challenge our belief system or dealing with issues related to the immoral behavior of administrators in a placement agency are typical discussions that often arise in those classes. But I find that questions and discussions regarding faith issues, values, and ethics constantly arise regardless of the course and often outside the classroom.
While our personal behavior regarding integration of faith in practice is a frequent topic, I have recently been focusing on the role a supervisor plays or should play in the integration process. A supervisor must be aware of his or her own beliefs and how they impact the supervisory process and relationships with supervisees. They must have a good understanding of other faith traditions and impart this information and understanding to staff members. They must caution supervisees from imposing their religious values and monitor the employees’ behavior. A supervisor must realize when it is necessary to refer a client for spiritual guidance and have a network of clergy members from various faith traditions to whom they or a supervisee can refer the client. The supervisor can help an employee explore how the client’s beliefs and values may be impacting the intervention and their relationship. Supervisors should also actively participate in creating policy regarding the integration process. For example, the agency should decide what training they provide or expect of staff members related to spiritual integration. They must develop policy regarding how a client’s or staff member’s belief system can affect case assignment. Finally they should have some plan related to whether they will market and how they will market their willingness to provide services that include spirituality or faith. These supervisory and organizational issues related to spiritual integration are areas that need greater attention.
Read more about the ethical use of supervision in the first article of NACSW’s Fall 2012 journal : Supervision Ethics
Jerry Jo G. is an Associate Professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. She has been a member of NACSW since 2001.