Date of Conferral





Human Services


Jeanne Connors


Research in the area of religion and spirituality in social work practice is lacking minority practitioner representation. This phenomenological study explored the questions of how American Muslim social workers define and experience the religious/spiritual, and perceive the propriety of integrating either, in practice. Ibn Khaldun and Durkheim, early social theorists, suggested that group feeling and affiliation impact personal and professional perception and decision making. American societal views of Muslims are often negative and uninformed. A group of 15 Muslim practitioners with bachelor's or more advanced degrees in social work were recruited through a survey administered via an Internet survey site. In depth telephone interviews were conducted that clarified personal and professional descriptions and experiences of the religious/spiritual. Transcript statements were critically reviewed for range of meaning (horizonalization) and reduced to their thematic essences following the phenomenological thematic analysis paradigm. Trustworthiness of the study was verified through ongoing bracketing of the researcher's assumptions and maintenance of a data collection journal. Findings indicated that participants favored a client-centered approach based on the social work standard of self determination. Most participants differentiated and acknowledged the value of spirituality more than religion in practice. Practitioners, cognizant of possible negative interpretations of Muslims and Islam, rely on the client to initiate religious themes in therapy. This finding suggests the need for future study of client views. Implications for social change are evidenced in the clients' assurance that Muslim practitioners' professional integration of the religious/spiritual is client driven and bound by competent social work ethical practice.