Clinical Training and Practice

Historically, at least in the western world, much medical care has been provided within a spiritual or religious context. Although this has changed over the last two or three centuries, to the point where most healthcare has been delivered in a completely secular setting, significant interest in the place of spirituality in healthcare has re-emerged in recent decades.

Unfortunately, there is still a gap between the importance of spirituality as reflected in the research literature and the aspirations of many clinicians, and the actual level of integration of spirituality into clinical assessments and treatments provided in practice. This gap is reflected in the very small place that spirituality is given in medical training. Although this is being remedied in many ways, few resources currently exist to support the inclusion of spirituality in professional training. There is also a need for more truly inter-disciplinary publications which bring clinicians into a more serious engagement with the fields of spirituality and theology. For example, Harold Koenig’s excellent book on Faith and Mental Health [1], explicitly acknowledges in its introduction that it is “relatively light on theology”. This is understandable, as it is written by a psychiatrist who openly acknowledges that he is not a theologian. However, this begs the question of who will write on this subject from a specifically theological perspective and from an inter-disciplinary perspective that is not light on theology.

Perhaps partly in consequence of such deficiencies in the literature, but also undoubtedly for a variety of other reasons, there is a failure of integration of spiritual care offered by faith communities and clinical (especially psychiatric) care offered by the medical community. Issues of spirituality are perceived by users of mental health services as being of critical relevance to their sense of personal identity and search for meaning.

In an attempt to begin to address these various concerns, the PSTH seeks to:

  • enable the writing of a new books on theology and health which will establish a theological model for understanding health and disease
  • provide a live setting in the United Kingdom for inter-disciplinary teaching and debate, within which clinicians, researchers and members of faith communities will come together to consider both particular clinical cases and also broader professional, ethical and academic concerns
  • build up a collection of literature in spirituality, theology & health, which will provide an integrative inter-disciplinary resource to promote scholarship, education and training in the field of spirituality, theology and health
  • create a specific research setting within which the possibility of introducing and integrating traditions of spirituality into clinical practice might be further explored
  • exert influence, where possible, on the inclusion of spirituality, healing, and related themes into the undergraduate and postgraduate medical curricula
  • establish a website which provides information and resources about the activities of the PSTH and also other relevant developments and sources of information in the field of spirituality, theology and health

References

  1. Koenig, H. G. (2005). Faith and mental health. Philadelphia, Templeton Foundation Press. [&#8617]