DAILY / MAY 22, 2017  
Psychiatric News Update

Your Patients May Want You to Incorporate Spirituality Into Treatment

A young woman with mania recently admitted to the hospital says she’s experiencing spiritual visions on how to solve the world’s problems. A man with a history of attempted suicide tells you that the treatment plan you just outlined goes against his religious beliefs. What should you do?

While most hospitals rely on chaplain services to address the spiritual needs of patients, a hospital-wide initiative at McLean Hospital aims to “empower, encourage, and train clinicians around the hospital to attend to patient’s spirituality and religion rather than ignoring or outsourcing this area of life.”

So said Morgan Medlock, M.D., M.Div., Monday during the Rapid-Fire Talk: Focus on Non-Pharmacological Treatment at APA’s Annual Meeting. Medlock, who is a PGY-4 at McLean, is director of the McLean Hospital Spirituality and Mental Health consultation service.

“Spirituality, or how people relate to that which is sacred, is hugely important to patients,” Medlock told Psychiatric News. Research shows that spirituality not only impacts the severity of mental health symptoms, but also how patients cope with negative life events (for example, through active religious surrender and acceptance or seeking spiritual support).

Among other things McLean’s program offers individual case consultation for clinicians seeking help with understanding how spirituality may be influencing a patient’s presentation, or who feel a patient could benefit from individualized spiritual assessment and coaching.

Within a few days of receiving a consultation request, Medlock said a member of her team meets with the patient to get a sense of his or her spiritual identity and practice, and how spirituality might impact recovery. The consultation team then debriefs with the requesting clinician, providing recommendations on how spirituality is relevant to the patient’s treatment, and how the primary team can support this aspect of the patient’s life. “After that we are fully integrated into the treatment team,” she said, meeting with patients in follow-up to assess progress and again prior to discharge.

Medlock noted that she has received positive feedback from patients and clinicians alike. “‘My patients appreciate your joining them in exploring the relationship between faith and recovery, and they have expressed profound gratitude for supporting them in their search for meaning (as well as health),’” wrote a clinician from McLean’s Trauma Disorders Unit.

“It’s feasible and acceptable to incorporate spirituality into care regardless of the provider’s background,” Medlock said. “We hope that other institutions will consider this model of direct clinical engagement in spiritual care to better serve patients who value spirituality.”

(Image: iStock/ipopba)



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