Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Timothy B. Leduc

Advisor Role



This research examined what Canadian social workers should consider when engaging therapeutically with clients for whom spirituality/religion is of central importance. There are several challenges in examining this issue in Canada (the north section of Turtle Island). One is the oppression of Indigenous peoples’ spirituality by colonizers imposing various Christian denominational spiritual/religious views. There has also been a trend of Christian practice declining in church worship among settler people, although Christianity remains part of the dominant cultural norms. Like many of the helping professions, social work has little to no education/training related to spirituality/religion and clinical work. This move away in the helping professions from inclusion of spirituality/religion is increasingly complicated by the growing body of research that identifies the possible positive impacts of spirituality/religion on clients. Also worthy of note are some of the cultures of people in Canada who include a variety of spiritual/religious expressions as central to their community identities. Their multiple identities can also comprise of race, place of origin, and spiritual/religious expressions other than Christian, resulting in various forms of oppression.

In response to the above noted issues critical theory was employed throughout my research, considering the continuum of experiences, negative through to positive, spirituality/religion can have on people. These varied impacts were considered from both personal and systemic perspectives, which is a central principle of social work often identified as person in environment. The constructivist grounded theory methodology used in this investigation informed the ongoing consideration of the research findings and along with the literature. This qualitative method was employed in the interviews with ten therapists who include spirituality/religion in their therapy practices. The themes from the research participants’ responses along with literature reviewed informed the practice principles identified in this paper. The overall findings suggest that best practice in social work interventions includes spirituality/religion. Informed by critical theory analysis, what emerged from the research were ten interrelated social work principles that promote both social work therapeutic practice and social justice.


The focus is on social workers' counselling work with clients for whom spirituality/religion is of central importance in their lives.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Available for download on Friday, May 03, 2024

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