An effort to blend social work outreach with a true sense of spirituality is behind a conference planned at St. Ambrose University’s Rogalski Center, Davenport.

Pamela Long, a professor in social work at St. Ambrose, will lead the conference, her first one in the Quad-Cities. This has been an area of academic interest for Long, who also teaches a course on the topic.

Social work became a profession about 100 years ago based on a Judeo-Christian belief system, Long said. Some of that basis disappeared in the social upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s, however.

In the last 15 years, a keen interest has returned to focus on how the social work profession is based on core values — service, social justice and personal dignity, she said. 

All of these imply a need for compassion, Long said. Compassion, too, is central to the moral codes of many faiths. A sense of spirituality empowers a social worker and helps the professional to understand the full life of a client. 

“They need to be aware … clients are motivated to change based on many aspects of their lives, including their religious and spiritual perspectives,” Long said. “Social workers need to be able to explore this aspect — it can be a place of strength.”

Social workers also should seek to express hope to their clients, and the expression of hope should be made with respect and compassion, building on client resilience, creativity and connections, if possible.

The conference’s objectives are:

-- Evaluate one’s own spiritual beliefs, values, development and experiences on social work practice with diverse persons.

-- Apply ethical frameworks to spiritually based activities in social work settings.

Before her career as St. Ambrose, Long practiced social work for more than 20 years in mental health, health and substance abuse, school and child welfare settings. She has also written in the areas of political social work and Catholic social teachings.

The conference is not aligned with any one faith, Long said, and is open to all.