Social Work in Natural Disasters: The Case of Spirituality and Post-traumatic Growth

Li-ju Jang, Walter F. LaMendola

Abstract


This study explored the role of social work in natural disasters by examining the relationship between spirituality and the post traumatic growth of people in
a collectivist culture. In this case, a retrospective study was conducted among people
in Taiwan who had survived a major earthquake five years earlier . The hypothesis
tested was that those who reported higher levels of spirituality would also report
higher levels of post traumatic growth. A concurrent triangulation mixed-methods
design was employed for this study. Six hundred and forty participants completed the
Post traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI). Twenty-eight others participated in semi-
structured in-depth interviews. Results indicate that, in Taiwan—described here as a
collectivist culture—traditional cultural narratives around suffering and adversity,
many of which are voiced as spiritual beliefs, have a significant effect on post traumatic growth. In this situation, social workers need to work with or support spiritual leaders, folk healers, and indigenous religious organizations, as they provide helping services. Respect for cultural differences may require that social workers primarily act as community organizers or developers, not clinicians focusing on coordination
and development of material resources.

Keywords


Spirituality; posttraumatic growth; natural disaster; Hakka spirit; symbolic interactionism

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