Addressing spirituality in healthcare needs : the mental health clinician's role in enhancing the quality of the medical health experience by treating the spirit.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Medical Humanities


Throughout the history of medicine and healing, religiousness and spirituality have played an important, yet significantly small role in the treatment of an array of afflictions. Many turn to God or a higher power to attain strength and guidance, and to also provide a sense of both serenity and security. While faith has been historically present in healing practices before modern medicine, there currently is a renewed interest and importance placed upon addressing spirituality and religiousness, not only in a physical medical realm, but in the mental health field as well. Facing the current trends in modern medicine, in which many individuals feel that it is important that their spiritual needs be addressed as a way of being treated holistically, for the person as a whole, complete entity comprised of a multitude of domains, clinicians must be prepared to attend to client needs, and furthermore, have an understanding of the culture of spirituality and through that understanding, garner a respect for it as well. In addition, clinicians must be able to utilize various techniques and interventions that can prove helpful in the treatment of diverse clients that may present a unique need for a deeper healing beyond the physical and beyond the wall of psychological ailments. Because current trends dictate the need for mental health clinicians and practitioners to incorporate techniques and interventions that will address both spirituality and religion within the patient-clinician relationship, spiritual specific training as a form of cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity is vital. As society moves into a mind-body-spirit awareness, clinicians must be trained and made aware of the advantages of addressing the spiritual needs and domains that exist for the individual, as well as be cognizant of the tools that can assist in enhancing and further delving into those spiritual areas. It is a goal that this research will serve as a source of insight, knowledge, and understanding of the importance of addressing spirituality in mental health care, specifically in its application for patients that are enduring difficulties with their medical healthcare. Additionally, it is this research's goal to also offer actual therapeutic interventions and guidelines that focus on spirituality and can be utilized in the counseling relationship as a way to enhance the patient's overall medical healthcare experience. For this research, focus is given to previous research and their findings, and well as various items of text and literature that pays special focus to spirituality and its role in improving patient's medical experiences and outcomes. More specifically, a review in research on the psychological and therapeutic ways in which mental health clinicians can address spirituality in their counseling relationship with their clients as a way to enhance the overall medical experience of the diagnosis is provided. The significance of this research lies in the fact that spirituality is an essential component of a person's being and everyday life. Because research has shown that there exists a high percentage of individuals who report the importance of spirituality and/or religion in their everyday lives, there is a great need for clinicians to be able to address these needs over the course of their work with their patients. To do so will not only be beneficial for the person's emotional well being, but can also prove to increase physical well-being, as well as nourish the patient-clinician relationship. Furthermore, it will aim to provide a better understanding of the interplay among spirituality, religion, and healthcare (medical and psychological). Additionally, the discussion of various interventions and guidelines that can be utilized by mental health clinicians can provide current and future clinicians ways in which they can incorporate it into their own practice for the benefit and healing process of their clients. This research will also encourage mental health clinicians to become more culturally and spiritually aware in treating their patients, as well as increase the likelihood that physicians refer their patients for therapeutic counseling as a way to enhance patient prognosis and overall experience of their medical diagnosis.