The Role of the Occupational Therapist in addressing the Spiritual Needs of Clients

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There is a continuing debate within the health professions on the place of spirituality and the approach to be taken towards spiritual needs within holistic care. In occupational therapy, the need for both a working definition of spirituality and evidence to validate spirituality as a performance component has been identified (Urbanowski and Vargo 1994). The aim of this study was to add to the debate by exploring the experiences of occupational therapists who have encountered spiritual needs in their practice.

A phenomenological approach using semi-structured interviews with three Christian occupational therapists explored their understanding of spirituality and experience of spiritual needs in practice. While the therapists interviewed had some difficulty in putting into words the concept of spirituality, they were able to identify spiritual needs in their clients and expressed opinions regarding the possible role of the occupational therapist in dealing with the spiritual needs of clients. It was clear that spiritual counselling was not considered to be appropriate for the occupational therapist, although recognising the spiritual dimension of an individual was important.

In the United Kingdom, the occupational therapy profession needs to develop further its view on spirituality in holistic care and the impact that it has on the health and wellbeing of its clients.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2000

More about this publication?
  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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