Academic journal article Social Work

A Template for Spiritual Assessment: A Review of the JCAHO Requirements and Guidelines for Implementation

Academic journal article Social Work

A Template for Spiritual Assessment: A Review of the JCAHO Requirements and Guidelines for Implementation

Article excerpt

Growing consensus exists that spiritual assessment is an important aspect of holistic service provision (Gilbert, 2000). Studies have repeatedly found that most practitioners affirm the importance of spiritual assessment (Canda & Furman, 1999; Carlson, Kirkpatrick, Hecker, & Killmer, 2002; Prest, Russel, & D'Souza, 1999; Sheridan & Amato-von Hemert, 1999). For instance, among a national sample of National Association of Social Workers (NASW) members engaged in direct practice (N = 2,069), approximately 60 percent agreed that an exploration of spirituality and religion should be part of the intake or assessment process (Canda & Furman).

Furthermore, social workers are increasingly being called on to conduct spiritual assessments. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO, 2004a) is the largest and most influential health care accrediting body in the United States. In keeping with the large number of social workers employed in JCAHO-accredited settings, NASW (2004) maintains an ongoing partnership with JCAHO. In addition to accrediting most of the nation's hospitals, JCAHO also accredits thousands of other organizations and programs providing health and mental health services.

In 2001, JCAHO revised its accreditation standards to require the administration of a spiritual assessment. Spiritual assessments are now mandated in a number of settings, including hospitals, home care organizations, long-term care facilities, and certain behavioral health care organizations such as those providing addiction services.

Although the importance of spiritual assessment is increasingly acknowledged, it remains an open question how well equipped social workers are to administer such assessments. Research indicates that most practitioners have received little, if any, training on spirituality and religion during their graduate training (Canda & Furman, 1999; Carlson et al., 2002; Furman, Benson, Grimwood, & Canda, 2004; Heyman, Buchanan, Musgrave, & Menz, in press; Murdock, 2004). Consistent with this lack of training, Canda and Furman found that only 17 percent of NASW-affiliated direct practitioners felt that social workers generally possessed the knowledge to address spiritual issues.

In light of the paucity of training, it is perhaps unsurprising that many practitioners desire to learn more about spiritual assessment (Derezotes, 1995). For example, among a random sample of clinical members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (N = 153), 54 percent indicated that they wanted to learn more about integrating spirituality into assessment and interventions (Carlson et al., 2002). Similarly, the professional literature features many voices articulating the need for more material to help equip practitioners to work with clients' spirituality and religion (Ai, 2002; Belcher & Cascio, 2001; Brenner & Homonoff, 2004; Gilbert, 2000; Sahlein, 2002).

In this article, I address the need for additional material on spiritual assessment by reviewing JCAHO's spiritual assessment requirements and developing guidelines that may be useful in the administration of an assessment. It may be helpful at this juncture to note that the use of the JCAHO requirements as a template does not preclude application of the material in other, non-JCAHO-accredited settings. This template is not so much a distinctive assessment tool or instrument as it is a broad framework for thinking about spiritual assessment. Because it was developed to enhance service provision to clients, it is likely to be of interest to a broad cross-section of social workers interested in spiritual assessment and cultural competence, regardless of whether the practitioner is employed in a JCAHO-accredited setting.

It is also important to note that other approaches to spiritual assessment exist. For instance, a wide array of quantitative scales has been developed. …

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