Spiritual Care Australia Pre-conference Research Intensive

Can you prove it? Research and Spiritual Care

by Cheryl Holmes, Spiritual Health Victoria

L to R: Dr Sandra Lynch, Dr Alan Niven and Dr Heather Tan.

In 2017 I attended the first Chaplaincy Research Summer Institute in Chicago. I wondered whether a similar event might be possible in Australia, and I was not disappointed. Back home three organisations came together to develop a pre-conference research intensive to take place before the annual national conference for Spiritual Care Australia. Spiritual Health Victoria, Meaningful Ageing Australia and Stirling Theological College (part of the University of Divinity) worked together with the hope that if we could attract at least twenty people it would be worthwhile. The final numbers were surprising and encouraging for the future of research in Australia: 60 people gathered for the research intensive on 5 May 2018, including 50 participants and 10 presenters. There were three main sections of input, each with a presentation of theory/concepts followed by case studies. The areas of focus responded to three questions:

  1. What is research?
  2. Why do research?
  3. How do you do research?

Participants worked in small groups to discuss areas of encouragement, challenge and ongoing questions that they might bring to a panel discussion. All of the presenters were then part of a panel discussion and responded to questions and comments from participants.

The final session was spent planning for the future, with each of the presenters giving a 2 minute response; participants were then invited to respond. Many ideas for the future were generated, including:

  • Assume research is part of spiritual care practice. We need to increase professional development and the education of spiritual care practitioners.
  • Become more collegiate – we should work with other organisations and institutions, both local and international. We should reduce silos in our profession.
  • Conduct interdisciplinary research projects
  • Publish beyond chaplaincy journals


Transforming Chaplaincy is grateful for the development of chaplaincy in Australia and for Cheryl’s report on the intensive.

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