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  • Spirituality and Health: Multidisciplinary Explorations
  • Anne Marie Dalton
Augustine Meier, Thomas St. James O'Connor, and Peter L. Van Katwyk , eds. Spirituality and Health: Multidisciplinary Explorations. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2005. 316 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $38.95 sc.

This book is a compilation of papers presented at the eighth annual conference of the Society of Pastoral Counselling Research (SPCR). The editors of the volume consider this meeting to be very significant since it brought together members of SPCR and members of the Canadian Association for Pastoral Practice and Education (CAPPE). Pastoral counsellors and chaplains met and discussed areas of common concern to both professions. Spirituality and Health explores these areas of common concern and the role of a larger "spiritual reality" in creating meaningful lives, especially in the promotion of well-being and health (xx). The book consists of three parts: part 1, "Faith Perspectives and Challenges" (11-101), part 2, "Spiritual Practices in Health Care" (105-165), and part 3, "Frontiers and Research" (191-306). The contributors are theologians and theological health care professionals, such as chaplains and pastoral counsellors, as well as social and health care scientists.

Chapters in part 1 focus on the spiritual bases for the role of faith in health care. As Thomas O'Connor and Elizabeth Meakes point out in the first chapter, the modern separation of science and religion has resulted in the separation of spiritual care from the theory and practice of health care professionals. However, recent conversation between the two disciplines has opened the way for cooperation and mutual learning between those who care for the spiritual needs of the sick and members of the medical professions. A significant example is supplied by Paul J. Rennick in his discussion of the history of separation between religion and psychology. He makes the case for taking more seriously the contribution that theological concepts, such as the value of human life, make to the counseling process. Similarly, chaplains and religious pastoral counsellors work from a long tradition supported by religious texts and practices that promote a sense of well-being and healing among those to whom they minister. All the authors in this section support their claim for a role for spirituality (broadly defined) in promoting a more holistic health care system with up to date contemporary research. Nazila Isgandarova presents an overview of Islamic attitudes to health care and counseling based on traditional teachings of the Qu'ran and Sunnah, as well as on the views of modern Muslim scholars.

Part 2 deals with how spirituality can play a significant role in specific areas in health care, such as in treating dementia, alcoholism and other addictions, and within occupational therapy. Again the chapters are characterized by careful attention to the latest research and reported experience. Ingrid Bloos gives a specific example of how a spiritual practice can benefit health care. She explains the use of the ancient spiritual practice of the labyrinth within a holistic concept of health care. [End Page 209] Based on her account of its use throughout history and across diverse cultures, Bloos argues for the usefulness of the labyrinth to both caregivers and their patients/clients in seeking clarity of thought, decreasing stress, or promoting awareness and a sense of connection. The final chapter in this section provides a riveting personal account, by Calvin Morriseau from the Chouchiching First Nation, of a childhood and youth dealing with alcoholic parents, sexual abuse, and addiction. Morriseau demonstrates the necessity of community healing and the respect for native spiritual ways in facing such social health problems as addiction and abuse.

The chapters in part 3 present a series of new research at the frontier of understanding the connections between the spiritual and physical dimensions of health and illness. Carlton F. Brown begins this section with a report on research to determine interest in the spiritual and/or religious dimensions of healing. Through a survey of usage of such terms as spirituality, religion, new, old, chaplain, pastoral care, and combinations of these, Brown uncovered some interesting trends in the manner in which both caregivers and clients/patients consider these dimensions of their work and lives. One conclusion drawn in...


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