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

“Does it matter if your therapist is a Christian?”: An interview with Robert Vore on CXMH!

Hi, friends! I recently had the opportunity to talk with Robert Vore on his podcast CXMH: Christianity and Mental Health, and the episode just launched this week! We had a great conversation about the role of religion and spirituality in mental health treatment, some of my recent research findings regarding a national sample of mental health clients’ preferences for integrating their religion/spirituality in mental health treatment, the role of the therapist’s beliefs (related: see Namaste Theory), and bridging the gap between mental health care providers and religious leaders. As you can quickly tell in this episode, I was over-the-moon excited to get to talk with Robert about these topics I wholeheartedly love!

If you have not heard of CXMH before, please take a moment to check it out! I’m honored that Robert invited me to the show, and am grateful for all of the work he is doing to highlight the intersection of faith and mental health!

Enjoy!

CXMH: Episode 31 (Does It Matter If Your Therapist Is A Christian?,
feat. Dr. Holly Oxhandler)

CXMH - Main Episodes (11).jpg

Kindly,

holly3

 

What helps/hinders integrating clients’ spirituality?

I noticed the other day that the National Association of Social Workers wrote a blog post on a recent paper I published alongside Dr. Traber D Giardina.  (Thank you, NASW!!) Traber is a great qualitative researcher, and having a national data set of comments and essays about what helps and hinders licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) to discuss clients’ religion/spirituality (RS) in practice, I knew she would be a great partner to tackle these nearly 600 pieces of data across 329 individuals.

You can read NASW’s blog about the study here: Social Workers’ Perceived Barriers to and Sources of Support for Integrating Clients’ Religion and Spirituality in Practice

The original article is here: Social Workers’ Perceived Barriers to and Sources of Support for Integrating Clients’ Religion and Spirituality in Practice

There are a LOT of interesting findings in this study. This national sample of clinical social workers did not have any prompts to describe what helps or hinders the assessment or discussion of clients’ religion/spirituality. And yet… they had a lot to say.

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When asked what helps them assess or discuss clients’ RS, here were the responses, with a few examples under each:

  • 67% said having a spiritually-sensitive practice
    • 31%: person-centered approach
    • 20%: recognizing religious/spiritual coping
  • 44% said their personal religiosity
    • 21%: their own RS journey
    • 18%: their own RS belief system
  • 25% said their educational experience
    • 10%: informal education
    • 9%: social work education

NOTE: Tonight, as I was prepping for a presentation next week, it jumped out at me all over again that 44% – almost half – of our LCSWs are freely describing that their personal RS is a source of support for considering clients’ RS, and only 9% find their social work education to be helpfulIt reminds me we have to be so intentional in SW education to ensure students are aware of their RS beliefs (whatever they may be), how to ethically consider clients’ beliefs, and for the therapist to not impose their beliefs onto clients. And upon reflecting on this data, I’m really curious about what “having a spiritually-sensitive practice” means to LCSWs and how they develop it.

 

When asked what prevents LCSWs from integrating clients’ RS, here were the responses, with a few examples under each:

  • 31% said “nothing”
  • 57% said something…
    • 15%: client-related limitations, such as client discouraged discussion or restrictive client beliefs
    • 35%: practitioner-related limitations, such as a lack of training or  fear/discomfort of how to discuss the topic
    • 13%: external limitations, such as agency or professional limitations, or a lack of time
  • 5% said it’s not relevant

 

And when asked what helps/hinders integration, 1 in 5 said they simply wait for clients to bring it up… which upon first glance seems appropriate from a “person-centered approach”, except clients have said in other studies that they prefer the therapist be the one to at least ask about this topic because it can be taboo.

I love that I get to do this work. There is much to do, but each study I do helps bring clarity on how to serve the social workers who are serving our communities.

Kindly,

holly3

Translating research – intro

Something I boldly remember asking myself as an undergraduate psychology student was, “why is research SO hard to understand?!” (I doubt I was alone.) For all of the money being poured into studies with the goal to truly help others, I also wondered why so few results seemed to make it to the mainstream. Certainly, there are some common barriers we all know of… the academic writing style (which is never how we would talk in everyday conversation), the writing outlets (well-respected academic journals, which unfortunately, can be difficult to access due to time and cost), and then understanding the analyses enough to even interpret them… these barriers failed to help move our research into others’ hands that we spent so much time and energy on.

I’ll admit, I’m no exception. Most of my writing has been for academic audiences. While I know there are researchers and teams and institutes working exceptionally hard to study translational research and help move research to practice (and inform research with practice), I came to realize I could do just a little bit more to help make my findings accessible to others. I want to help this process of translating my research into practice. As researchers, we work hard to dream up and carry out the studies, to analyze the data, and to write the findings (in my case, all alongside amazing colleagues!). Submitting the paper to a peer-reviewed journal, turning to the next project, and expecting anyone outside of academia to read or understand it seems silly. But honestly, after hearing this episode of the Good Life Project podcast interview with Simon Sinek, I realized I needed to help explain and translate my own research.


As Simon said:
“[Academics] have amazing concepts and I’m sure they could change the world, if only anybody understood them…”
(Thanks for the idea, Simon and Jonathan!)


So stay tuned… these little translational research updates will be a step to help take the research I’ve done and mold the articles into deliciously meaningful, applicable bite-sized pieces. The only thing I ask is for grace – learning to write for a non-academic audience is something I’ll need practice with, but as I’ve learned to write tight research papers for peer-reviewed journals, I hope to also learn to translate and communicate them in a way that’s interesting, meaningful, and accessible to all 🙂

Kindly,

holly3