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

  • Li-ju Jang
  • Walter F. LaMendola
Keywords: Spirituality, posttraumatic growth, natural disaster, Hakka spirit, symbolic interactionism


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.