Social Work and Religious Diversity: Annual Conference for Social Service and Mental Health Care Providers

PSI, The Interfaith Center of New York and The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services are proud to offer an annual continuing education conference for social workers and their colleagues.  The Social Work and Religious Diversity series helps social service and mental health care providers work effectively with religiously diverse clients, and offers continuing education credit hours for New York State LMSWs and LCSWs.

Our next full-day conference will be held on Wednesday, May 10, 2017.  It will feature diverse local religious leaders, scholars, and faith-based service providers, exploring the intimate ties between Religion, Spirituality, and Family Life.  Please click here for a program and other details about the conference, click here for brief biographies of our speakers, and click here for conference registration.  We hope you can join us on May 10th, to explore the religious lives of diverse New York families.

Featured PSI Speakers at this Conference:

Rev. Sarah McCaslin, MDiv, LMSW, is an ordained minister and licensed social worker whose career has been devoted to fostering the human capacity for resilience, growth, and meaning-making. She graduated with dual masters degrees from Columbia University School of Social Work and Union Theological Seminary in 2006, and was ordained by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) in 2007.  She currently serves as a Resident Therapist at the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute, and as Waffle Church Minister at St. Lydia’s – leading services for children and families at a progressive Brooklyn dinner church.

Dr. Mary Ragan, LCSW, is the Executive Director of the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute, and an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work, where she regularly teaches a course on “Spirituality and Social Work.”  In addition to her work as a clinician, administrator, and educator, Dr. Ragan has served as a consultant to a wide range of faith-based and secular organizations.  Her research has explored the contours of traumatic grief, and she has done trauma work with first-responders and family members after 9/11, and with survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Why Study Social Work and Religious Diversity?

Because to make a difference in today’s New York, mental health and social service providers need a rich understanding of the religious lives of the people they serve.  The religious landscape of the United States has shifted dramatically in recent years, with the arrival of new Americans from every corner of the globe and every faith tradition.  The changing face, and faith, of America may be seen in the diverse client-base of New York City’s social workers.  The religious beliefs and values of many New Yorkers shape their views of pressing social issues – child welfare and youth development, mental health and depression, substance abuse and recovery, sexuality and LGBT relationships, immigration and assimilation, aging and end-of-life issues, and many others.  In order to work effectively on these issues, New York’s social workers need to understand the religious beliefs and practices of the clients and communities they serve.

 Because the city’s diverse faith traditions offer valuable insights and resources that can enrich your practice as a mental health or social service professional.  Whether or not you are a faith-based provider, and regardless of the populations you serve, you can learn a great deal by engaging with your religiously diverse colleagues. Your practice might be enriched by Christian understandings of personal faith and transformation; by Jewish understandings of “tikkun olam,” or the repair of our painfully broken world; by Muslim understandings of the dynamic balance between justice and compassion; by Buddhist understandings of mindfulness and non-attachment; by Hindu and Sikh understandings of “seva,” or selfless service; by African diaspora or Orisha understandings of the reciprocal ties between the social and spiritual worlds.  In all these ways, and more, an engagement with religious diversity can transform your practice as a social worker.

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