Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Understanding the Nature and Role of Spirituality in Relation to Coping and Health: A Conceptual Framework

Abstract: The past several years have seen a virtual explosion of research in the area of religion, spirituality, coping, and health. Despite this inundation, most studies have remained at the descriptive level of analysis. It has only been within the past few years that more complex associations, pathways (i.e., mediation), and possible models concerning the influence of religion and/or spirituality on health have been investigated. One psychosocial model of adjustment that holds promise as a potential “scaffold” for the organization and understanding of these vast data on spirituality is the transactional model of stress and coping originally put forth by Lazarus and Folkman (1984). The present paper uses the basic tenets (e.g., dynamic process) and structural components (e.g., coping behaviour) of the transactional model as a framework for the integration of the growing empirical literature on spirituality, coping, and health. The resultant application of the model in a spiritual context was reviewed by four spiritual care workers and/or chaplains from different religious back- grounds. These multifaith chaplains critiqued the “fit” of this model in relation to their understanding of health and coping from their faith perspective and offered suggestions on modifications to the model that would create a better fit.