This will be a unique paradigm shift for all involved if transpersonal theory trumps others a leading context for practice. In the field of children’s services, for instance, it will provide a useful approach for social workers who need to establish their own unique voices as it will freely permit them to involve spirituality in their practice. As it stands, this is an under-discussed element of social worker development and education as our personal faiths or spiritual senses are only really discussed in the context of the “do not” (in other words, we are often told to keep our religious beliefs to ourselves). By making room for our own personal spirituality in our practice and by allowing it to manifest without non-secular nuance, we can encourage children especially to follow suit and recognize this vital part of themselves as well. Communities would likely see benefits as there would be a higher level of general consciousness among its residents, especially if young children are introduced to spiritual principles at an early age and learn how it is an acceptance, important part of themselves. While there might be some trouble for some service organizations to accept these principles, this is most likely due to fears about how “spiritual” can be seen as “religious.” To best counter this weakness, organizations and individual social workers will need to understand more about the true universal spiritual aims of this theory and not attempt to transform into distinctly Christian or other views in their practice itself, even if such sentiments form the core of the personal side of their spirituality. Furthermore, to help service organizations better understand and adapt to this framework, it will need to be into ethical context and reinforced regularly.

As the previous reference to the NASW Code of Ethics (1996) preamble suggests, there are several aspects of transpersonal theory that are in synch with application in social work, especially in family and children’s services. However, despite this alignment in sheer principle, this guide for social workers also contains references to some of the broader pitfalls inherent to a spiritually-based approach to social work that can be difficult to identify and manage, especially if a social worker holds strong beliefs on what constitutes “correct” or acceptable spiritual practice. For instance, Under section 1.06 of the NASW Code of Ethics is the broad principle that social workers should not take unfair advantage of any professional relationship or exploit others to further their personal, religious, political, or business interests” (p. 10). Although the level of exploitation possible depends heavily on a social worker’s own religious affiliation or alignment, it is possible that a practitioner of one religion might inadvertently or even purposefully use his or her position to try to win “converts” to the desired faith for personal, spiritual gain. In order to further address this possibility however, the NASW Code of Ethics (1996) also addresses the important matter of ethical decision-making in the context of diverse spiritual and religious beliefs. To this end it states that those involved in social work “should be aware of the impact on ethical decision making of their clients’ and their own personal values and cultural and religious beliefs and practices: They should be aware of any conflicts between personal and professional values and deal with them responsibly” (p. 6). In other words, while the Code of Ethics does not reference religion as a specific, lone element of potential ethical weakness, it is included in this statement that social workers must remain vigilant about how their own spiritual priorities and beliefs might be influencing, whether explicitly or overtly, the nature of their professional interactions. Due to the very professional conditions of social work, there are many aspects of an everyday, practical nature that are subjective—in other words, experiences are subjective, thus to better contextualize our professional associations and relationships with young people in particular, adequate checks and balances on personal versus transpersonal spirituality must be realized fully. The implications of overstepping one’s bounds are not only damaging to the purpose behind social work more generally, but could also hinder the progress of those we so hope to see succeed and develop.

From a personal perspective, I find the subject of transpersonal theory as a guiding force in social work with children extremely valuable although I still recognize some of its problems in terms of the potential for unethical behavior. Still, most social workers use the code of ethics as their sounding board for ethical decision-making practices and if they continue to do so and use common sense and an ounce of religious and social openness, it will likely become clear with greater acceptance and practice that this is of tremendous benefit to all. I have my own strong feelings about how spirituality has been a major force in my own life and I know that without the strength I derive from spiritual practice and thought, I would not be able to accomplish many of the things I have. My question is then, with my personal experiences in mind (and those of millions of others that are roughly similar) why should we expect our young clients to live and find healing without such a valuable resource when we ourselves are unable to do so? In my opinion, it will be quite simply to maintain a secular version of spirituality and use it as a principle and not a strict doctrine full of rules or worship or any other such element that is part of most ever organized religion. Transpersonal theory has little to do with religion in the structured sense and everything to do with a higher source of being. If practiced in the way Canda and Smith (2003) suggest with experiences serving as implicit instigators to higher ways of being and thinking, then it may just be that we have stumbled upon one of the greatest social solutions in this new century. However, there is still a rather disturbing amount of bias—and much of it does not have anything to do with the pertinent ethics issues addressed, it has to do with professional and institutional resistance to this approach. It is non-standard and non-traditional, but we desperately need to look for better solutions, especially in the field of children’s services where there an increasing number of children who are suffering from consequences of a life devoid of spirituality in any sense—not just religiously speaking.

By spending some time above recognizing the past limitations to full and widespread integration of this theory in common practice, I was subtly making the suggestion that the profession’s reluctance to fully integrate this approach on a wide scale is due to fear and the ability to move beyond traditional Western notions of practice. However, I clearly recognize that in making such broad omissions in our practice due to sensitivities about religious issues as a well as the scientific-community-based “fear” of anything religious clouding “pure” scientific fields, we are overlooking something important that could revolutionize our lives as social workers as well as the lives of those whom we aim to assist.

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