Commonly Asked Questions about Spiritual Health Therapy

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is striving for the quest for meaning in our life. People seek meaning in order to live authentically with each other. This can become a particular set of spiritual beliefs, guiding the ultimate purpose of our life. This search for meaning launches us on a journey in which all aspects of life – joy, sorrows, struggles and successes – can become avenues to deeper understanding of self, interconnectedness with other people, nature and God(Transcendent).

As well, spirituality, in search for meaning, assists us in finding purpose, hope, comfort and inner peace in our life. Many people find spirituality through religion. Some find it though music, art or a connection with nature. Others find it in their values and principles.

Spirituality is unique to each individual and it always involves a process of becoming and inevitably, it calls us out of a preoccupation with ourselves and toward to love and compassion for others and world.

How is Spirituality related to Health?

The general consensus of health care is to provide care to the whole human being. In caring for the whole human being, there is a need to focus on each aspect of what makes a person human. The most visible is our body. The second aspect is that of thinking, engaging our minds. A third aspect is feeling, which emerges in emotions and forms the dynamic energy of our relationships. And the fourth aspect of self is the spiritual. Its definitions are constantly evolving as understanding of this vital area of health care changes.

The health of any one of these aspects seems to affect the health of others. Some research shows that things such as positive beliefs, comfort and strength gained from spiritual counsel, spiritual direction, religion, meditation and prayer can contribute to healing and a sense of well-being. Improving your spiritual health may not cure an illness, but it may help you feel better, prevent some health problems and help you cope with illness and death.

Healing is rooted in the concept of wholeness. A physical health care need, such as an illness, may be a symptom of a deeper and more complex need for healing the whole person. In health care, there is
growing awareness that spiritual care is a vital aspect of care for the whole person.

What is Spiritual Health Therapy?

Spiritual Health Therapy is about addressing concepts such as meaning, purpose, self-worth, respect, integrity, authenticity, compassion, empathy. It finds its expression in word, image, ritual, nature, art, mystery and appreciation of life.

Spiritual Health Therapy is rooted in ancient teachings, theories and emerging research that tackle the most basic questions of life. Many spiritual traditions teach that when one part of the self is weakened, sick or struggling, the person may experience a profound sense of emptiness that leads to emotional, mental or physical illness. Statistical studies and medical research now confirm that illness in one part of self affects the other aspects of self, and a person’s total wellness.

The purpose of Spiritual Health Therapy is to support people by focusing on the nourishment of the spiritual dimension within the person. Spiritual care and counselling is an essential component to holistic care. The scope of spiritual care and counselling includes:

  • Fostering a holistic approach to wellness and to both healthy personal and relational development in accordance with each one’s unique worldview and significant concerns
  • Assisting in finding meaning and purpose in life 
  • Seeking to promote spiritual well-being in the midst of the human condition with all of its challenges, crises, illness, suffering, pain and grief 
  • Facilitating healing by assisting people in their effort to transcend, transform or alleviate symptoms of spiritual distress and suffering
  • Providing sacred space and ritual in the ordinary and profound moments of life and death
  • Providing therapy defined as facilitating cures or solutions to pathologies

Who offers Spiritual Health Therapy?

Spiritual Health Therapy is provided by Spiritual Health Therapy Specialists/Professionals who are educated, trained, certified and experienced in supporting the spiritual and religious needs of patients,
families and staff. They are certified and accredited members of The Canadian Association for Spiritual Care (CASC/ACSS). They are clinical practitioners who help people draw upon their own spiritual, religious and cultural resources for direction, strength, wisdom and healing as they journey through life’s stages.

CASC/ACSS is a national multi-faith organization which is committed to the professional practice, education, certification and support of persons involved in spiritual care and spiritual counselling.

CASC/ACSS certified Spiritual Health Therapy Specialists/Professionals are educated at master’s and doctoral levels and have a minimum of 2,500 hours in post graduate clinical training to become competent as professional who integrates the development of clinical skills with knowledge of self and knowledge of theological, spiritual, philosophical, psychological and cultural frameworks.

What if I'm not a religious person?

You do not need to be religious to benefit from Spiritual Health Therapy. Spirituality is about finding meaning in life, processing our experiences, and feeling more authentic and whole. Some people include religion as a part of this, some people do not. Spiritual Health Therapists will respect whatever belief system you have.

Will anyone try to convert me or change my religion?

Absolutely not. Spiritual Health Therapists are trained professionals and part of the healthcare system. They will treat you and your beliefs with respect.

Is Spiritual Health Therapy only for people who are dying?

No. Spiritual Health Therapy can be a benefit to anyone who is facing a time of crisis or a change in situation.

How is Spiritual Health Therapy different from other forms of Spiritual and Religious care?

Every person involved in the care of an individual has concern for a patient’s spiritual well-being. However, there is often need for more in-depth expertise and guidance in order for a person to find a way to sources of inner strength, peace and hope.

Spiritual Health Therapy is different from the care provided by religious professionals or spiritual practitioners in the community. The Spiritual Health Therapist is part of the health care team and provides an essential service in cooperation with providers from other health care disciplines.

The Spiritual Health Therapist has the opportunity to sit with individuals and families in the present. Their primary role is to help not only the person seeking care and the family that supports them, but to also support other health care staff on the journey into healing and wholeness.

Spiritual Health Therapists offer compassion, invest time to listen and come to know the patient beyond their particular presenting health concern. Studies evaluating this health care service have shown that the greatest benefit from Spiritual Health Therapy is a renewed sense of calm and hope which becomes the energy needed to face whatever the future holds.

What are “Spiritual Needs”?

The spiritual aspects of life are linked to all other aspects of life, so the fulfilment of spiritual needs is vital to a meaningful and purposeful life. Spiritual needs and concerns usually relate to what we call the "big" questions of life. These questions can include:

  • Why is this happening?
  • Why is it happening to me? 
  • What do I do now? 
  • How can I go on? 
  • Who am I now? 
  • What does it all mean? 
  • Is there a plan in this? 
  • How do I make sense of everything? 
  • How do I feel about changes in my life? 
  • What gives me comfort and hope? 
  • What do I call "good" in my life? What do I call "bad"? 
  • What am I grateful for? 
  • What do I trust? Who do I trust? 
  • Who is my "beloved community" -- who loves me and is loved by me, no matter what? 
  • What or who -- beyond myself -- do I believe is important in my life?

All of these questions relate to spiritual needs, concerns and resources. All people ask these questions during their lives, especially when they or someone they love are sick or in crisis. Some people find meaning, comfort, hope, goodness and community through their religious practice, beliefs and/or community of faith. Some people do not. Regardless of whether religious faith is a part of a person's life, spiritual concerns, resources and needs can still be very important, especially during hospitalization.

What are "Spiritual Resources"?

Spiritual resources are practices, beliefs, objects and/or relationships that people often turn to for help in times of crisis or concern. Some spiritual resources include:

  • Spiritual Health Therapy 
  • Music 
  • Art 
  • Books/reading
  • Family and friends 
  • Supportive Community 
  • Meditation 
  • Prayer 
  • Religious leaders
    • Priest, Rabbi, Imam 
  • Church, Synagogue, other support groups 
  • Holy writings/scripture
    • Bible, Torah, Qur'an 
  • Inspirational writings
    • Poetry, Devotional Materials, Prayer Books 
  • Religion-specific items
    • Sabbath menorah, rosary beads, devotional pictures, prayer rug 
  • Sacramental practices
    • Communion, Anointing

These resources can help people return to a sense of balance when their lives have been turned upside down. They can help people sort out the "big" questions in order to find meaning, comfort, hope, goodness and community in the midst of a crisis.

What difference would Spiritual Health Therapy make to the health and healing of my body?

There have been numerous studies conducted over the past 50 years that show a person's health and well-being benefits when his or her spiritual needs are addressed. Some benefits include:

  • Shorter hospital stay 
  • Quicker recovery from regular non-complicated surgery
  • Improved pain management
  • Improved experience of their stay
  • Improved motivation to complete the tasks of healing
  • Improved management of cardiovascular needs (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure)
  • Improved sense of well-being

Who would benefit from Spiritual Health Therapy?

Persons who are:

  • In distress or who would like one-on-one support 
  • Feeling lonely, discouraged or misunderstood 
  • Struggling with meaning in life and death 
  • Grieving the death of a loved one 
  • Wrestling with experiences of loss, self-worth, hospitalization or isolation 
  • Seeking support in ethical decision making
  • Finding it difficult to cope 
  • Wanting to use their spirituality to help them cope 
  • Desiring prayer, religious rites or sacramental support 
  • Wishing to explore their understanding of the Divine/God
  • Coming to terms with bad news or with a future which has become more uncertain

How to I contact the Spiritual Health Therapy dept?

Referral Hours:
Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (905) 494-2120 Ext. 50103

During referral hours you may also reach Spiritual Health Therapy by calling Locating Ext. 34567.

Anyone who is a patient, family member, or staff member is welcome to contact us at any time. If your call comes during our referral hours, leave a message and someone will phone you back very shortly. If you phone outside of referral hours, leave a message and the Spiritual Health Therapist will phone you back during the next workday.

If you are a patient or family member, you may also ask your nurse to contact Spiritual Health Therapy.

What if you want religious support from your own faith community?

You are free to contact your own faith community for support, and your religious leader will be welcome to visit you during your stay at Osler so long as you have invited them to come. Community religious leaders are not permitted to make “cold call” visits in the hospital to patients who did not invite them. If you are seeking to connect with a faith community but do not have a contact, Spiritual Health Therapists can help you connect to a local leader in your faith community.

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