Religiosity and spirituality in clinical practice

Specialization and extension programs address topics of influence on people’s health

Por: PUCRS Magazine

08/02/2017 - 18h26
Photo: Freeimages

Photo: Freeimages

Since 1984, spiritual well-being has been embraced by the UN as one of the definitions of health, along with physical, emotional and mental well-being. Similarly, religion plays a major role in Brazilian life, as almost 92% of the population claimed to believe in God, according to the 2010 census. Although these beliefs have been under scientific investigation for some decades, they are still underrepresented when it comes to clinical education. Just like doctors who need to monitor their patient’s diet, it is necessary to identify how religiosity and spirituality can have an impact on physical or mental health. If a health-care professional does not address these aspects during their undergraduate training, how could they provide qualified services in this sense? If these are topics of major importance in people’s lives to the point that they have an impact on their health, why not conduct an scientific investigation on them?


Based on these questions, PUCRS will be offering two new programs: the specialization program in Religiosity and spirituality in clinical practice, to be offered entirely online, and the extension program Religious/spiritual experiences and anomalous phenomena: diagnosis, management and research. Both are connected to the undergraduate program in Psychology of the School of Humanities. The idea is to equip professionals to listen, understand and have good rapport with their patients, to address religiosity and spirituality the same way they address sexuality, food habits and physical activities. “Today we work on the concept of religious and spiritual coping, which acts as a way to face stressful situations. Positive coping is related to health and helps give significance to the experience one is going through, such as a disease, by making patients feel calmer, and playing a role in communication, in the administration of the treatment prescribed and in the patient’s confidence”, says psychologist Letícia Alminhana, extension professor and specialization program founder.


Quality of life

Spirituality is a dimension of quality of life, something broad and comprehensive which is not related to any institution. One of the means to exercise it is through religiosity. It is the connection with religions, and is more linked to organizations, institutions, dogmas and rituals, which may include spirituality. “Religion is both a belief and a science. It brings principles which must be abided in our daily lives, and they are as legitimate as the psychology theories defended by professionals; however, that relation is overlooked. Due to historical issues, religion is kept separate from science, and they are seen as opposing phenomena. However, some studies call for the importance of bringing them together”, claims the coordinator of the specialization programs and extension, psychologist Leonardo Silva.


Differential diagnosis

Among the topics addressed in the specialization program is differential diagnosis, which allows us to identify whether the experience reported could be treated as a pathology (when people are unresponsive, distressed and confused and need to be sent to a psychologist or psychiatrist), or could possibly developed human potential. “We have scientific justification for that. We are aware that consciousness is not to be found in the brain only. We have a long way to go to address this issue without giving up on a religious perspective”, assesses she.


According to Silva, when professor Letícia Alminhana arrived at PUCRS in 2015, we saw an opportunity to implement programs in this area, since she had completed her doctorate with the largest research group in the country, in Juiz de Fora (MG), the Brazilian Research Group in Spirituality and Health, which is now partners with our University. “This knowhow has enabled us to offer a scientific program and supply a market demand”, comments she.


To find out more about it, please visit PUCRS Magazine 2016 annual issue.


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