Re-engineering social work's approach to holistic healing.

Author:Aguilar, Marian A.

As we near the beginning of a new millennium, there are many signs of hope and healing amid the reports of violence and destruction in U.S. society. The evidence is everywhere. Corporate America has re-examined both leadership and corporate roles and realized that the individuals who form the corpus of their organizations are made up of body, mind, and spirit and that to have a more effectively operated organization, nurturing the whole person is important to the corporation (Gouillart & Kelly, 1995; Hammer & Champy, 1993; Pappas, 1996). The president of the United States began his day of inauguration with prayer. At least four programs on television directly address the need to nurture people's spirits: Early Edition, Seventh Heaven, Promised Land, and Touched by an Angel. What the creators of these programs have recognized is that audiences are searching for the sacred, for spiritual meaning in their lives, and that many people are on vision quests to reclaim and care for their souls. Articles in Newsweek, Time, and Life magazines have discussed the beliefs and spiritual practices of people in the United States (Begley, 1994; Kantrowitz, 1994; Woodward, 1994). And recently self-help authors have begun to use religious language in their books. Estes (1995), in Women Who Run with the Wolves, reintroduces women to their spiritual side, their feminine soul. Canfield and Hansen's Chicken Soup for the Soul (1993) series have become best-sellers. Even rappers are rapping the word of God.

In the past scientists and astrologers desacralized scientific discoveries and relegated religious practices to institutional churches. While medical science was making great strides in technology that enhanced physical healing and made survival possible for people of all ages, the relationship between physical healing and spiritual nurturing was largely ignored until recently. Now even nonreligious scientists see the work of a higher power in scientific discoveries (Begley, 1994).


What about social workers involved in the process of healing? Like psychotherapists, for the past 40 years social workers have secularized the search for the sacred by recodifying the concept as personal transformation, self-fulfillment, or self-esteem. Social workers accepted these concepts as social work values. As medical social workers prepare to embark on reform and managed care, what tools and skills will we need to create a healing ambiance for...

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