Critical Spirituality: A Holistic Approach to Contemporary Practice

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Critical spirituality is a way of naming a desire to work with what is meaningful in the context of enabling a socially just, diverse and inclusive society. Critical spirituality means seeing people holistically, seeking to understand where they are coming from and what matters to them at a fundamental level; the level that is part of the everyday but also transcends it. What is important in critical spirituality is to combine a postmodern valuing of individual experience of spirituality with all its diversity with a critical perspective that asserts the importance of living harmoniously and respectfully at an individual, family and community level. Human service professionals currently wrestle with the gradually increasing expectation to work with spirituality often without feeling capable of undertaking such practice. Some work with people experiencing major trauma or change such as palliative care or rehabilitation where people ask meaning of life questions to which they feel ill equipped to respond. Others work with individuals, families and communities experiencing conflict about spiritual issues. Increased migration and movement of refugees increases contact with people for whom spirituality is central. Such experiences raise a number of issues for existing professionals as well as students: what do we mean by spiritual? How does this relate to religion? How do we work with the spiritual in ways that recognise and value difference, without accepting abusive relationships? What are the limits to spiritual tolerance, if any? This book explores these issues and addresses the dilemmas and challenges experienced by professionals. It also provides a number of practical tools such as possible questions to ask to assess for spiritual issues; to see spirituality as part of a web of relationships.

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Review:

'Fiona Gardner has given us her customary down to earth, but thoughtful work. This is a timely book, on a topic which is of growing interest and importance. It is particularly welcome in supporting a trend which will become integral to professional practice in the future. I highly commend Critical Spirituality.' Jan Fook, South West London Academic Network, UK 'Fiona Gardner subverts the dominant paradigm which for too long has depicted spirituality as "flaky" and of marginal relevance to human service practitioners. In Critical Spirituality, she articulates a compelling rationale as to why professional integrity demands engaging with one's own spiritual concerns as well as recognising and responding to those the various stakeholders in their communities of practice.' Beth R. Crisp, Deakin University, Australia 'Fiona Gardner has drawn on her professional and personal experience in social work, and as a Quaker, to explore the growing interest in the integration of spiritual aspects into professional practice among those who work in the caring professions. The result is a grounded, thorough and helpful contribution to the field... The book is clearly and coherently laid out, and is divided into three parts... these personal accounts really bring the application of critical spirituality very much alive. The accounts include descriptions of the practitioners' own spirituality and often how integral the search for meaning is in their work settings with vulnerable clients... Critical spirituality is undoubtedly a subject that needs further debate both among professionals and within agencies and institutions, and this is certainly a book that can contribute to this.' Modern Believing 'The book makes a strong case for considering spirituality as a central issue for social workers and all the people they serve rather than an afterthought. When we consider how we ourselves would like to be approached if requiring social care, a service which was based upon an assessment of our needs on a merely functional basis would feel mechanical if it failed to take account of the central issues which gave life meaning for us. The most valuable part of the book for me was the chapter in which the author encourages her readers to explore their own sense of what gives life meaning and purpose and the background and history which informs their own faith in or rejection of particular religions. This is surely an essential task for social workers in order to be attuned to the needs of other people.' Practice: Social Work in Action

About the Author:

Fiona Gardner is Head of Social Work and Social Policy, Fiona Gardner, La Trobe University, Australia

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9781138467637: Critical Spirituality: A Holistic Approach to Contemporary Practice

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