Spirituality in Social Work Practice and Mental Health Recovery

Policy makers, researchers, practitioners, and recipients of mental health services are advocating more and more for a recovery-oriented mental health system. Proponents of the recovery paradigm posit that people with mental illnesses have the potential to build quality lives regardless of the severity of their symptoms. The recovery paradigm emphasizes self-direction and self-responsibility, and recovery-oriented practitioners strive to assist clients in identifying their strengths and potential resources to support them. In recent years, spirituality and religion have received more attention as potential resources that support a variety of recovery-related goals.

Empirical studies have linked a positive sense of spirituality and religious participation to mental health-promoting behaviors, such as finding meaning in difficult life experiences. Spiritual and religious engagement can also promote a sense of hope and self-esteem, decrease risk behaviors, provide social support, and reduce anxiety, depression, and substance use. At the same time, mental health service users can experience fear, excessive guilt, doubts, or a lack of acceptance from one's spiritual community as a result of their religious or spiritual engagement. However, recent research suggests that people with mental illness frequently utilize positive spiritual coping to enhance recovery, while many who experience spiritual struggles are able effectively work through and learn from such challenges. This webinar offers insights for social work and related practitioners interested in integrating spirituality and religion as part of recovery-oriented mental health practice.

In this live webinar, participants will learn:

  1. the role of spirituality and religion in mental health recovery
  2. the various types of spiritual benefits and struggles experienced by mental health service users
  3. the spiritual developmental process that mental service users engage in as they strive for recovery
  4. strategies and principles for effectively assessing and addressing spirituality and religion in mental health practice
Who should participate?

Mental health educators and practitioners who are interested in incorporating spirituality and religion as part of recovery-oriented practice

This webinar is sponsored by CSWE in partnership with the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare and the Indiana University School of Social Work.

Vincent Starnino

Assistant Professor, Indiana University School of Social Work

Dr. Starnino's scholarship focuses on the role of spirituality in the recovery process for people experiencing mental health-related issues, with specific foci on severe mental illness and trauma. He has experience conducting research on innovative and holistic mental health practice approaches and is currently the lead investigator for a study testing the effectiveness of a spiritually-related group intervention for veterans with PTSD (called Search for Meaning). Dr. Starnino conducted previous intervention research on a widely used mental health recovery program (Wellness Recovery Action Planning), as well as research on spiritual assessment and the spiritual developmental process of people with severe mental illness in the context of recovery. He has several publications on these topics.

W. Patrick Sullivan, PhD (Moderator)

Professor, Indiana University School of Social Work

W. Patrick Sullivan is a Professor at the Indiana University School of Social Work and was also the Director of the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction from 1994-1998. While earning a Ph.D. at the University of Kansas, Sullivan helped develop the Strengths model of Social Work practice, and has extended the model in mental health and addictions treatment and policy. He has over 80 professional publications on a diverse range of topics. He received the Distinguished Hoosier award in 1997 and the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest civilian award in Indiana, in 2004 for his work in mental health and addictions. Sullivan has served as a steering committee member for the SAMHSA/CSWE Recovery to Practice initiative and also served on the SAMHSA/CSWE Integrated Behavioral Healthcare project. While at Indiana University has won ten awards for teaching and the IUPUI Glen Irwin Experience Excellence Award for Community Service.


09/22/2016 at 1:00 PM (EDT)   |  60 minutes
09/22/2016 at 1:00 PM (EDT)   |  60 minutes In this live webinar, Dr. Vincent Starnino will explore the role role of spirituality/religion in mental health recovery .
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