Occupational therapy (OT) is a practice that implies the use of multiple assessment methods and interventions for developing, recovering, and maintaining meaningful activities for work among individuals, groups, and even communities. Those who required occupational therapy have usually undergone illness, injury, or have developed a disability that prevents them from being effective in their everyday activities.
Thus, the practice of occupational therapists is highly essential for facilitating the improvement of health among the population. Occupational therapists who are religious are more likely to integrate their spiritual consideration in practice. Although, there is limited knowledge regarding the experiences of therapists holding specific faith perspectives. In this paper, the focus will be placed on exploring the practice of occupational therapy from the standpoint of Christian faith. The professional emphasis on spirituality is significant to discuss because OT implies the facilitation of patients’ well-being using multi-dimensional methods, with spirituality being among the most important components of mental healing.
The aspect of spirituality is contentious as applied to the practice of occupational therapists. There is a gap in research and definition of the element within the profession, with it being complicated for therapists to address in practice (Bray 2). Relatively few frameworks and guidelines exist in terms of integrating spirituality into OT practice to enable patients to participate in the process of emotional and physical health. Because of this, occupational therapists choose themselves whether they should embed spirituality into practice, which leads to another complication (Isaac et al. 2). The main issue behind debates was whether occupational therapists with firm religious beliefs should integrate their spirituality into work (Bray 2).
Health policies and investigations of ineffective care delivery have emphasized the need to ensure that healthcare professionals provide patient-centric delivery of care to address physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Thus, person-centered practice values the spiritual aspect of care and is fulfilled in such a way that emphasizes the needs of patients that can encompass a wide array of issues.
Because of this, spirituality represents a “key dimension of person-centeredness,” but the way in which it is addressed represents a challenge to healthcare providers (Jones et al. 38). According to the findings of Jones et al., spirituality in occupational therapy practice was shown to be related to a holistic and patient-centered approach to health care. Such an approach is oriented at restoring the sense of well-being among patients and recognizing the individual coping strategies that help people deal with arising health issues (Jones et al. 38). Jones et al. developed a framework intended for operationalizing spiritually-competent and patient-centered therapy practice (Jones et al. 39).
Thus, it can be concluded that occupational therapists are expected to respond to disruptions in the quality of patients’ lives by using a wide variety of resources to restore the patients’ purpose and meaning.
Christian Motives for Vocation
Modern healthcare is currently challenged to offer care that exceeds the medical model of addressing the physical needs of patients. The practice of the occupational therapy vocation encourages professionals to be in-tune with the physical and emotional needs of their patients and provide caring to them. Therefore, incorporating the spiritual dimension of patient care should not be separated from nursing science.
Spiritual care includes activities that should elevate the quality of patients’ lives and their overall well-being. Scholars have repeatedly underlined the fact that patients and their families were highly likely to engage in spiritual and religious guidance at stressful times of their lives associated with healthcare crises or death (Bellinger et al. 336). Also, more than 70% of the US population reported aligning with some kind of religion (Murphy and Walker 146). Despite the need for healthcare providers to be educated in spiritual training, the current efforts are ineffective.
According to the principles of Christian faith, spirituality is facilitated by such positive acts as listening, compassionate presence, prayer, the use of religious objectives, meditation, instilling hope, and talking with clergy (Murphy and Walker 145).
These principles represent the key objective for practicing occupational therapy as a Christian. Spiritual care is thus aimed at helping patients to make meaning of their experiences and find hope in life despite the challenges that come their way. Christian occupational therapists are expected to foster special connections with their patients and go far beyond seeing the physical aspect of things. This is related to the concept of holistic care, which includes such important acts as offering presence, holding a patient’s hand, or active listening.
Christian occupational therapists can look into their faith to understand the valuable principles of whole-person care. The example of Jesus serves as a reminder that in order to benefit others, one has to address both physical and spiritual. For instance, in Luke 5:17-26, Jesus managed to heal a lame man not only physically but also spiritually. For practitioners who follow the foundations of Christianity and treat other people the same way in which Jesus Christ would. Also, they aim to think and act the same way in which Christ would because the Holy Spirit of God is believed to live within them (John 14:16-17).
Thus, for Christian occupational therapists, whole-person therapy is defined as “spirit-guided care” (Murphy and Walker 147). Spirit-guided care refers to the act of removing oneself as a form of motivation and allowing Christ to get involved in the process of care and guide it. By doing so, it is possible for practitioners to draw upon God’s strengthen and offer care that is highly positive in the sense that Christianity meant it to be. The framework of spirit-guided care represents the way in which occupational therapists use their own expertise as the hands of Christ and thus engage in caring for patients.
Spirit-guided care is, therefore, associated with placing a focus on and caring for a patient as a whole and his or her family. Instead of perceiving the process of care as a series of assignments that compartmentalize various aspects of care, spirit-guided care that is based on Christian principles conceptualizes the whole person in every act of caring. For example, in the occupational therapy practice, the relief of arthritis or stretching of joints becomes an “opportunity for the presence and spiritual assessment” (Murphy and Walker 147).
Offering presence is seen as the way of reducing arthritis pain and facilitating joint stretching through thinking about what the patient needs, what are his or her distresses, as well as what questions do they have. Therefore, every interaction with the patient involves considering the whole person. Providing the spirit-guided care to patients is thus focused on being instead of doing. Despite not being a new concept in the theory of care, spirit-guided care is an attempt to show how a Christian practitioner can be effective in attending to both the physical and spiritual needs of their patients.
When exploring the process of patient care as laid out in the Bible, it must be mention that God the Father wants to promote positive well-being and health as well as address the needs of the whole person needs (Murphy and Walker 149). For instance, Leviticus discusses several health-related issues as God presents rules for food, waste, infections, and childbirth. The Psalms includes prayers associated with healing one’s health holistically.
For instance, Psalms 30:2 says, “O Lord, my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.” Proverbs teach believers to be wise about their healthy living while Jeremiah confirms that God can be the source of all healing: “Behold, I will bring health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth” (Jeremiah 33:6). Therefore, the Bible says that God can be instrumental in healing people both physically and spiritually.
The New Testament is full of examples of God the Son’s power and intention of healing. As stated in Matthew, it is mentioned that Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing various kinds of sickness and disease (Matthew 4:23). The same theme is continued in Luke: “So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere (Luke 9:6). As Christian occupational therapists, practitioners are called to carry out the healing power of God to facilitate the care for patients in terms of both physical and spiritual care.
The book of Acts also offers guidance on spiritual healing as it tells the story of God the Spirit being present in those who believe in him. It is essential to note that in such a context, Christians are not spectators; instead, they act in a way that Jesus would act with the help of the Spirit. Therefore, the principles of Christianity that are applied to the healthcare practice teach people to be respectful of others as well as show kindness to be renewed.
Those who live a Spirit-guided life are highly likely to show compassion and support when caring for other people. The Christian religion that is embedded into the process of patient care encourages professionals to act in a way that Jesus Christ would act, healing people not only physically, but also spiritually. Because of this, the holistic and spiritual aspect of care should not be underestimated as it can offer patients a method of handling their health problems in an all-encompassing way that reflects the nature of Christian religion and its teaching.
Christian Guidance for the Vocation
The key objective of occupational therapists is concerned with treating injured or disabled patients through the application of everyday activities that are intended to help individuals recover as well as improve their skills necessary for daily working and living. This means that the range of responsibilities that occupational therapists perform is highly varied depending on the needs of their patients as well as the objectives set for treatment.
For example, the practitioners are expected to evaluate the condition and needs of patients on a regular basis, develop treatment plans with specific goals that should be accomplished, help individuals with disabilities fulfill their everyday tasks, as well as educate patient families on how they could accommodate their care for patients.
Beyond the mentioned activities, occupational therapists can also work in mental health settings and help patients struggling with mental illnesses, emotional problems, as well as developmental complications. The responsibility of professionals in this area is helping their patients cope with daily life activities through support and education. For example, patients with developmental disabilities need support in terms of understanding how to use public transport or manage their time, which is where the support from occupational therapists comes into play. In addition, those working in the profession can also encounter individuals who have suffered from drug abuse, alcohol addiction, depression, and other disorders. Occupational nurses work toward enhancing the life of patients who have undergone any trauma.
Based on the responsibilities of occupational therapists and the types of patients with whom they deal, whole-person care is essential to be implemented in the given healthcare contexts. According to Murphy and Walker, the challenge of providing spirited care is ensuring that a professional accepts the principles of spirituality as well as understands the value of spirituality for his or her patients (150).
As mentioned in the NHS report, all professionals have the ability to provide quality spiritual care at a certain level because what is needed from them is being present and showing compassion for the problems that other people experience (10). Since the skills necessary to provide spirit-guided care are basic pillars of therapy and nursing, the process of caring is considered to be at the center of taking care of the whole person.
In order to provide care within the Christian tradition, occupational therapists are expected to reflect on their personal spirituality and care for themselves holistically. This idea is supported by researchers in both secular and religious fields. To be effective in caring for patients, professionals should care for themselves. According to Dossey, practitioners should engage in spiritual self-care to be more effective in addressing the needs of their patients (30).
For Christians, spiritual self-care is associated with spending personal time with themselves, reading the Bible, praying, worshipping, and developing fellowships with other believers. All of these acts will enable practitioners to understand the positive sides of spiritual care and integrate their experiences into caring for other people. Because of this, it is essential that healthcare organizations recognize the importance of spirit-guided care by means of incorporating spirituality into communities as well as training professionals on enhancing their awareness of spirituality.
Spirit-guided care that is based on the foundations of Christianity incorporates the decisions that practitioners aligning with religion make the moment they meet their patients. They are expected to make a conscious decision to simultaneously care to a whole patient, including the unseen aspects of a person, such as their spirituality (Murphy and Walker 151). Drawing on the faith in God, spirit-guided care provides a foundation for approaching both the physical and spiritual aspects of an individual.
In this approach, the real purpose of occupational therapy is understood – the emphasis on complete care for every patient from every angle and perspective. According to 1 John 4:19, Spirit-guided care implies providing care in the presence of God where there is “complete fullness of joy,” and people are able to show love for others because God loved them first.
In terms of discussing the step-by-step process of providing occupational therapy that is based on Christian principles, the first stage implies the incorporation of Spirit-guided care through making conscious decisions to allow the religious underpinnings, such as the Holy Spirit, to be embedded into the delivery of care. With the help of such a mindset, practitioners can develop their own self-awareness of spirituality and promote the awareness for spirituality needs of their patients.
Thus, it is the connection between the occupational therapist and patients that encourages holistic intervention to achieve the goals of care holistically and not only in terms of improving the physical well-being of patients. Providing spirit-guided care includes a wide variety of acts of Christ that represent the foundation for further healthcare practice.
When incorporating Spirit-guided care as a framework for occupational therapy, practitioners are expected to facilitate the assessment of the whole patient and the family environment. The general spiritual assessment can include asking patients about their religious history and allowing them to reflect on their personal needs in terms of emotional support and enhancing the quality of their lives. What is important to mention is that such issues as spiritual distress, the increased risk of spiritual distress, and readiness to enhance one’s well-being are included in the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association diagnoses that are associated with the idea of spirituality (Murphy and Walker 151).
The next steps targeted at incorporating the Christian religion into the process of patient care are associated with both planning and implementation. As mentioned by Murphy and Walker, it is imperative to create an environment that can increase the likelihood that patients will enhance in the process of care as well as play an essential role in developing the procedures that will be integrated into the treatment.
Engaging in Spirit-guided therapy thus means that therapists would pray that they can meet the needs of their patients by using their knowledge and expertise as well as planning and implementing care. It is possible to evaluate the outcomes of spiritual care with the help of asking patients about their perspectives. Getting either a positive or negative response from patients is essential for understanding the meaning of spiritual care and its influence on the process of recovery.
Therefore, Spirit-guided care, as aligned with the Christian practice, is expected to facilitate positive connections between practitioners and their patients, family, the broader community, and God. These connections are imperative for enhancing the well-being of patients and filling their lives with positive beliefs and expectations of the future.
To facilitate the integration of Christian principles of care into occupational therapy, the healthcare sector should place attention to incorporating the principles of spirituality into educational curricula. Sadly, little attention is given to spirituality in education because it is considered secondary and unimportant because physical care is central in occupational therapy. Therefore, occupational therapists are responsible themselves for reflecting on spirituality and searching for the meaning of it within the process of care.
During studying to become occupational therapy, students are expected to draw upon their attitudes to religion and integrate them into learning. Thus, instead of leaving everything to chance, understanding how spiritual care can be used to improve one’s competence and compassion for other people can be a beneficial route for occupational therapists.
Bellinger, Denise, et al. “Religious Involvement, Inflammatory Markers and Stress Hormones in Major Depression and Chronic Medical Illness.” Open Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 4, 2014, pp. 335-352.
Bray, Kaelen. “What is the Experience of Christian Occupational Therapists?” Semantic Scholar, 2011. Web.
Jones, Janice, et al. “A Concept Analysis of Spirituality in Occupational Therapy Practice.” Journal for the Study of Spirituality, vol. 6, no. 1, 2016, pp. 38-57.
Dossey, Barbara. Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2008.
Murphy, Lyn, and Mark Walker. “Spirit-Guided Care. Christian Nursing for the Whole Person.” Journal of Christian Nursing, vol. 30, no. 3, 2013, pp. 145-152.
Isaac, Kathleen, et al. “Incorporating Spirituality in Primary Care.” Journal of Religious Health, vol. 55, no. 3, 2016, pp. 1065-1077.
NHS. “Spiritual Care Matters: An Introductory Resource for all NHS Scotland Staff.” Scot NHS. 2019. Web.