Despite considerable literature describing the potential place of spirituality in occupational therapy, surveys repeatedly demonstrate that therapists are uncomfortable with this concept in practice. To gain a better understanding of how spirituality might inform practice, we interviewed eight occupational therapists who stated that they considered spirituality while working with patients.
Participants defined spirituality as one’s beliefs about the world and one’s place in it and how one lives out these beliefs, through reflection and conscious actions. Four themes of consideration of spirituality in practice emerged. In the first, addressing religious concerns, therapists dealt with patients’ religious questions and issues. In the second, addressing suffering, therapists assisted patients to deal with their feelings related to loss and pain, attempted to relieve patients’ distress and helped patients move towards increased functioning. In the third, encouraging the self, therapists worked to assist patients to acknowledge their own worth and to use their unique gifts and interests. In the fourth, growing as a person, therapists themselves were transformed as a result of the therapeutic encounter.
This study represents an early attempt to determine what occupational therapists who consider spirituality actually do in practice. Future research should go deeper into the experience of such therapists, to gain a richer understanding of the phenomenon.