The Spiritual Dimension of Carla Washburn
Arizona State University 2013
This essay will explore James Fowler work titled, Stages of Faith- the Psychology of Human Development: and it’s psychotherapeutic applications, in dealing with individual faith over the course of a life time. In addition, the connotations of spirituality and aging will be examined, as they are presented by Dr. Margaret Waller, in her work The Spiritual Dimension for Assessing Human Functioning. It is from these works that a better understanding of spirituality and its role in a client’s biopsychosocial spiritual profile can be defined and used by social workers.
In this essay I will document a firm foundation of the spiritual dimension and its importance to social practitioner’s life. A compare and contrast of Fowler’s Theory will demonstrate the variance that occurs with a change in variables. This will be accomplished by using the case client study of Carla Washburn, provided by Alice A. Lieberman on the New Directions in Social Work website, http://www.routledgesw.com/. The variables that will be examined will be sex and age.
The intent of this essay, is to demonstrate the role of spirituality in the biopsychosocial spiritual dimension of a client’s assessment profile. It also will provided insightful conclusions by which a social practitioner can evaluate the differences of individual’s behavior, as it is affected by sub-systems and environments.
Keywords: spirituality, aging, stages of faith theory
The Spiritual Dimension of Carla Washburn
The opening of James Fowler’s work, Stages of Faith- The Psychology of Human Development provides intriguing questions Fowler sought to utilize in a workshop on faith. The questions expanded upon the notion of faith and its meaningful purpose in an individual’s life (Fowler, 1995). Fowler states that from the questions he “examined the structure of values, the patterns of love and action, the shape of fear and dread and the directions of hope and friendship in my life” (p.3). Fowler concluded that the entirety of these questions, revolved around faith. With faith we are able to process meaningful life patterns that occur throughout our life (p.4).
Fowler finalized his work, by categorizing 7 stages of spiritual growth an individual will endure. The stages are patterned like Eric Erikson’s, Stages of Psychosocial Development, providing age range and attributed behavior (Walker, n.d.). The stages are:
- Stage 1 Primal-Undifferentiated Faith,
- Stage 2 Intuitive-Projective,
- Stage 3 Mythic –Literal, Stage
- Stage 4 Synthetic-Conventional,
- Stage 5 Individual-Reflective, Stage (my current stage),
- Stage 6 Conjunctive Faith and
- Stage 7 Universalizing Faith- Maslow’s Actualization (Roger, p.316).
These stages define several characteristics Fowler detailed in his work, such as the German word Einbildungskaft: which means “power” (p.24). The stages bring forward two genral concepts: The ideal of faith being “relational” – (concept of a personal relationship with GOD, and how that conveys into our social relationships-family, friends, love, community,etc). (p.16). and A difference between faith and religion (p.12).
When reviewing the client case study of Carla Washburn, it is evident that these characteristics and stages follow through. Carla Washburn is 76 years old, has type 2 diabetes, occasionally attends church, and is in a grief support group. Carla’s grief is over her grandson who died in Afghanistan. Carla also has lost her son and his wife to a car accident. Although Carla’s grief seems heavy: She seems to have a grasp of Fowler’s understanding of, power, relational and the difference between faith and religion. Carla is in Stage 6 of Fowler’s structural development.
At Stage 6, Carla seems to be transcending reality beyond emotional duress, by accepting the factors of what is existent. In the grief support group, Carla makes it very clear that she did not want to attend the sessions. But seeming it was a church group (of which she attends church) and seeming that her sister kept insisting: she decided to come. At this point Carla seems to have self-defined the role of the church/religion and faith (Lieberman, 2013). The differentiation of the group being for crisis resolution; and the group being for faithful passage is apparent. The difference can be found in the enjoyment Carla details having with her grandson, compared to Carla disinterest in the groups’ crisis support resolution. She expresses joyfully statements such as, “He even played tea with me…I listened to him…I was there for him and he was there for me”. These statements convey spiritual dynamics which Fowler detailed as “relational” (p. 16). It’s during stage 6, that the individual “demythologizes” the literal meanings and symbols, creating a self- understanding of faith as it is referenced to spiritual and religion as to church, fellowship, etc. (Exploring Spiritual Development, 2009).
Fowler’s 6 Stage Conjunctive Faith, is also represented by Carla’s ability to overcome adversity and having meaning and purpose. This could be seen in Carla’s dialogue with Beverly about her son who died of an over dosage. Beverly is insistent that her son’s girlfriend is an intervening problem and cause of his death. Carla express sternly dialogue, for Beverly to come to terms of her son, as he really was and his responsibility to himself. She is not advising Beverly, but simply pointing out the conjunctive and non-conjunctive aspects of what is real! Carla explains the difference of Beverly’s son, who died of an over dosage as being a completely different ordeal than her grandson who died honorably in the UNITED STATES ARMY. Her grandson died honorably-with respect of his responsibilities. Thus she doesn’t feel it necessary to conventional grieve. She is proud of her grandson and the abundance of love she provided to him as a child, comforts her now. Whereas Beverly son, died of irresponsibility of substance usage. That is why you are grieving. Beverly needs to accept the reality of the difference and the reality of her sons, actions. Which are separate from the emotional associations, which sometimes are tied to symbols and formalized patterns of behavior.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST VARIABLE :
If Carla were a 20 year old caucasian male, then the characteristics of her behavior (essences) would be different according to Fowler’s Stages. Carla as Carl, would be in Stage 4 Synthetic Conventional . Fowler states that such individuals, are in a stage of anxiety aroused by responsibility of religious freedom. The individual may be angst with the complexity of faith, as they question conflicts which arise in their life against faith. As Carl, Carla might ask common emotional questions such as, “Why did her grandson had to die? Why did her son have to die in the auto accident? How can God be so good, yet create so much pain with death?” (Exploring Spiritual Development, 2009).
When approaching Carl, Fowler’s Stage development provides a social practitioner with helpful cues. For example at Stage 4, using strength developing techniques, allows the client to be self-determinant. This could assist Carl with increase awareness of his beliefs and their roots, making this reflective period more effective. However using that same approach with Carla at Stage 5 would not be as effective. At stage 5 Individual-Reflective, it would be effective to utilize techniques that emphasized relationship, “I-Thou relationships” (Berk, 2010). At Stage 5 an individual is more confident in their faith and thus not in need of reaffirmation of what they have conceived as faith.
Berk, E. Laura. (2010). Resilience: agreeableness and acceptance of change. Development through the life span (5th ed.) Retrieved from http://www.pearsonhighered.com/berkls5epreview/assets/pdf/berk_ls5e_ch18.pdf
Exploring Spiritual Development. (2009). James Fowler’s stages of faith development. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com/JamesFowlersStages.html
Fowler, W. James. (1995). Stages of faith-the psychology of human development and quest for meaning. New York, NY. Haper Collins.
Lieberman, A. Alice. (2013). Carla Washburn’s grief support. [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.routledgesw.com//washburn/engage/video
Rogers, T. Anissa. (2013). Human behavior in the social environment. New York, NY: Routledge.
Waller, Margaret. (n.d.). The spiritual dimension for assessing human functioning. Faulkner. Retrieve from http://ww2.faulkner.edu/admin/websites/jfarrell/Spiritual%20dimensions%20of%20human%20functioning.pdf