(Re)-Introducing Themes of Religion and Spirituality to Professional Social Work Training in the Land of ‘Saints and Scholars’.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter begins by alluding to Ireland’s historical reputation as the land of “Saints and Scholars” and then briefly charts its demise from this position. A parallel process in relation to religiously motivated provision of health and social care is outlined. The inclusion of themes of religion and spirituality within the current professional social work codes in the USA and Britain and the framework for social work training in Northern Ireland is noted. In this context the lack of any substantive inclusion of themes of religion and/or spirituality within the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree at Queens University Belfast will be situated. A series of intersecting reasons for this lack of inclusion are proposed in terms of the experience of living through the recent troubled history of Northern Ireland and a variety of biases in academic thought.
A rationale for the re-introduction of inputs on religion and spirituality is articulated in terms of the widespread resurgence of these themes within health and social care and psychotherapy literature and the new emphasis on practicing in culturally sensitive ways in Britain. The first steps to re-introduce these themes under the higher context marker of “culturally competent practice” are described and an analysis of data from the students’ feedback presented along with illustrative quotations. The dissonance between the initial misgivings of staff and the overwhelmingly positive responses of students are highlighted. The chapter concludes with a discussion of lessons learned through the process with an emphasis on how the inclusion of these themes can result in better practice for service users, including those impacted by “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIrish Families and Globalization: Conversations about Belonging and Identity across Space and Time
EditorsChristine Readdick
Place of PublicationAnn Arbor, MI
PublisherMichigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameGroves Conference on Marriage and Family Monograph Series
PublisherMPublishing, University of Michigan Library


  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Social Work education
  • Ireland
  • Culturally Competent Practice
  • Conflict

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