Namaste Theory

One of the (many!) things I love about research is when I have an unexpected “ah ha!!” moment that no amount of planning or hope or best intentions could have created – only  a little breathing room to think. Last year, I had such a moment reflecting on my dissertation findings and some more recent surveys of various helping professionals.

In my national sample of clinical social workers, I noticed that their intrinsic religiosity (or the degree to which they’re deeply motivated to carry out their religion/spirituality into all areas of their lives) was the top predictor of their attitudes, confidence, perceived feasibility, and behaviors related to assessing and discussing clients’ religion/spirituality. Yes, their intrinsic religiosity. Not training… though, that was the second and only other predictor. Not gender, race, ethnicity, age, region of the country, years in practice, age of clients served, type of clinical issue most often treated, religious affiliation, etc… it was their own intrinsic religiosity first, and then whether or not they received training. This finding echoed in the qualitative responses I wrote about here.

One morning last year while I was getting ready, without really even thinking much about work, it dawned on me…


Namaste…
The divine in me sees the divine in you…
The light in me sees the light in you…
That’s IT!!!


Practitioners who have higher levels of intrinsic religiosity – those who deeply recognize the sacred within, or that which they consider sacred, such as their spirituality – tend to recognize the sacred within their clients more. The Hindi term, Namaste, which literally translates to “I bow to you” and acknowledges the divine/sacred within both individuals, helped to bring order and understanding to what I saw emerging in the data regarding the role of the therapist’s spirituality in considering the clients’ spirituality. This wasn’t just in my research, but this pattern echoed across helping professions with elements of practitioners’ religion/spirituality influencing whether they considered their clients’ religion/spirituality. And, as I mention in the original article, published in Religions, I’m also curious if this theory could be extended beyond one’s religion/spirituality to include other areas of intersectionality (e.g., the more practitioners are deeply aware of their race/ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation/age/ability/culture/etc., the more likely they are to recognize this layer if diversity in clients.)

Baylor University’s Garland School of Social Work put together a great video about this theory, which you can find here, and even wrote an article describing Namaste Theory in more detail here. (A special thanks to Baylor graduate Connor Watkins for putting together the video and article!) Also, if you’re interested in hearing more about this theory, check out my podcast episode with Steve Austin here!

While I strongly recommend receiving training on integrating clients’ religion/spirituality, particularly if you did not receive such training in your graduate program, Namaste Theory suggests it is also critical that you take time to become deeply aware of your religious/spiritual beliefs. Not only will this awareness help you become more comfortable and grounded with your own beliefs, allowing you to hold space to discuss others’ diverse beliefs, but it can also allow you to be mindful of biases, reduce the risk of imposing your beliefs (whether intentionally or unintentionally), and recognize the complexities of others’ spiritual journeys.

As always, I hope this serves you well in your work, particularly as you seek to serve your clients to the best of your ability, both ethically and effectively! Namaste, friends! 😉

Kindly,

holly3