Should clinicians incorporate positive spirituality into their practices? What does the evidence say?

Ann Behav Med. 2002 Winter;24(1):69-73. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2401_08.


Most of the rhetoric decrying the incorporation of basic and positive spiritual care into clinical practice is not based on reliable evidence. We briefly review the current evidence, which demonstrates that (a) there is frequently a positive association between positive spirituality and mental and physical health and well being, (b) most patients desire to be offered basic spiritual care by their clinicians, (c) most patients censure our professions for ignoring their spiritual needs, (d) most clinicians believe that spiritual interventions would help their patients but have little training in providing basic spiritual assessment or care, (e) professional associations and educational institutions are beginning to provide learners and clinicians information on how to incorporate spirituality and practice, and (j) anecdotal evidence indicates that clinicians having received such training find it immediately helpful and do apply it to their practice. We point out the reasons that much more research is needed, especially outcome-based, clinical research on the effects of these spiritual interventions by clinicians. We conclude that the evidence to date demonstrates trained or experienced clinicians should encourage positive spirituality with their patients and that there is no evidence that such therapy is, in general, harmful. Further, unless or until there is evidence of harm from a clinician's provision of either basic spiritual care or a spiritually sensitive practice, interested clinicians and systems should learn to assess their patients' spiritual health and to provide indicated and desired spiritual intervention. Clinicians and health care systems should not, without compelling data to the contrary, deprive their patients of the spiritual support and comfort on which their hope, health, and well-being may hinge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Social Support