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Spirituality and Its Influence on Human Behavior

The Impact of Spirituality on Interactions with Clients

Spiritual beliefs can influence a person’s cognitive assessment of negative life events. Religion and spirituality are critical aspects of all cultures, and social workers must incorporate spiritual diversity in practice (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2015, p. 354). Believing in a transcendent force often provides support, hope, and an optimistic view that there is an external force responsive to an individual’s needs. These religious viewpoints might influence how I interact with clients. For example, a patient-facing an unavoidable permanent disability due to a medical condition might turn to religion for comfort. The patient might believe that God will intervene and revoke the disability. These beliefs can improve the client’s coping strategies and sense of control over the loss. As a health provider, I understand that certain life shocks such as death and disabilities are inevitable, regardless of spiritual credence. Therefore, it is crucial to acknowledge the client’s spiritual beliefs and integrate them into care delivery for optimal patient outcomes.

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Another example relates to caregivers’ religious coping strategies against terminal diseases. Care providers working with children suffering from terminal illnesses usually experience mental distress, including, but not limited to, depression and chronic sorrow. A cross-sectional study conducted by Pearce et al. (2015) showed that healthcare practitioners who turn to religious coping for support have a higher caregiving burden than those who resort to non-religious techniques. The caregiving load can be attributed to the unaltered medical condition despite the client’s attempts to have recourse to religion for help. Knowing that a religious coping approach can negatively impact clients, I can develop effective and religious-sensitive strategies to promote the client’s health outcomes, rather than forcing patients to come to terms with their medical situations because there is no scientific proof that he/she might heal.

How Spirituality Supports Social Work

As a Christian, applying religious virtues in practice might help build positive therapeutic relationships with patients and provide patient-centered care. Christianity encourages personal qualities, such as compassion, honesty, love, and altruistic acts. Compassionate care and altruism are considered necessary in ethical practice; they emphasize the need to put others before self and implement actions required to alleviate one’s pain and suffering. Christianity also teaches against behaviors such as sexual immorality, abortions, tattoos, and alcoholism. Applying these teachings during practice can serve as a barrier to the effective delivery of holistic care to patients. Clients might feel judged, disrespected, or offended, particularly if they chose to engage in the practices mentioned above.

Strategy for Applying Spiritual Awareness

Instigating spiritual or religious conversations with clients during the initial biopsychosocial assessment acts as a strategy for applying spirituality awareness in social work practice. A study conducted by Oxhandler and Pargament (2014) showed that clients expressed the desire for social workers and mental health practitioners to initiate conversations on religious and spiritual beliefs. Spiritual awareness involves understanding oneself to reunite with the broader system. It is being consciously aware of other people’s religious and spiritual practices and beliefs without letting one’s values, faith, and thoughts influence their spiritual stance. Social workers can learn of clients’ cultures by directly engaging with them in cross-cultural conversations mediated by effective communication to enhance their ability to demonstrate spiritual sensitivity and humility.


Oxhandler, H. K., & Pargament, K. I. (2014). Social work practitioners’ integration of clients’ religion and spirituality in practice: A literature review. Social Work, 59(3), 271–279. Web.

Pearce, M. J., Medoff, D., Lawrence, R. E., & Dixon, L. (2015). Religious coping among adults caring for family members with serious mental illness. Community Mental Health Journal, 52(2), 194–202. Web.

Zastrow, C. H., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2015). Understanding human behavior and the social environment (10th ed.). Cengage Learning.

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