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Home arrow Sociology arrow Holistic engagement : transformative social work education in the 21st century

Pedagogy for an Integrative Practice Experiential Unity Theory and Model



Contemporary societal trends—namely busyness, speed-filled living, overworking, the influence of technology, and obeisance to materialism—are having an increasingly negative impact on people and cultures. In addition, numbing and the use of mind-altering substances encourage and perpetuate the disconnection from self (Quinn, 2014); these conditions make it vital that schools of social work, responsible for educating and equipping the next generation of social workers, role model a teaching style and a “way of being” that is counter to the dominant disconnecting strategies. Thomas Moore, in his book Care of the Soul (1992), believes the distress seen in this century is related to the “loss ofsoul.” He believes “when the soul is neglected it doesn't just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning” (p. xi). Disconnection in the classroom is evident with students' limited attention span, inability to name their feelings and relate to the feeling world of another, and a tendency toward cerebral communication and intellectualization of counseling. Faculty may find it is not just clients in the agencies but also the student population, undermined by cultural trends and meeting demands of the Academy, who are often exhibiting serious signs and symptoms of disconnection. It is incumbent on professors of social work to incorporate new modalities that counteract these undermining habits and to offer healing for those whose souls are disconnected.

Some professors of social work are turning to mindfulness-based paradigms, experiential processes, and holistic models of healing as a way to include the biopsychosocial-spiritual self in their teaching. For instance, Lee, Ng, Leung, and Chan (2009), in their book Integrative Body-Mind-Spirit Social Work, state,

Integrative therapy focuses on the mind-body-spirit relationship, recognizes spirituality as a fundamental domain of human existence, acknowledges and utilizes the mind's power as well as the body's, and reaches beyond self-actualization or symptom reduction to broaden a perception of self that connects individuals to a larger sense of themselves and to their communities. (introduction)

Teaching therapeutic techniques that are integrative requires students to learn in an experiential way. The professors' use of mindfulness techniques helps social work students experience the importance of being mindful of their own emotional state, and maintain a deep self-connection, in order to do holistic work with their clients.

An example of a theoretical and therapeutic approach that requires an integration of mindfulness by social work students is Experiential Unity Theory and Model: Reclaiming the soul (Quinn, 2012). In this chapter, I review my pedagogic style in teaching this model and demonstrate the importance of incorporating a mindfulness and experiential teaching milieu. My intent in devising this therapeutic model was to educate clients about the importance of feelings, the impact of cultural trends when appropriate, and offer a pathway for the essential engagement of the soul. The model requires the practitioner to be deeply connected and self-aware.

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