Spirituality and healing are rapidly becoming integrated into mainstream American medicine, according to Herbert Benson, MD, president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. His conclusion is based on a greater examination of spirituality's impact on health and mental health, increased attention to the topic in medical schools and residency training curriculums, and recommendations for assessment of patients' spiritual needs by physicians and health care organizations nationally. Benson applauded these achievements at today's opening of a two-day Spirituality & Healing in Medicine course in Clearwater, Fla.
The course, presented by the Harvard Medical School Department of Continuing Education and the Mind/Body Medical Institute and supported in part by the John Templeton Foundation, offers insight on how to put the mind/body spirituality approach into practice. Discussions include insurance coverage for spirituality-based practices, parish nurse programs that unite church and healthcare professionals, the use of the relaxation response in clergy care, and the education of physicians in spirituality-based care and assessment. Workshops will trace the traditions of the healing arts through several world religions.
``Over the last ten years, we have witnessed a substantial growth in the role and application of spirituality and healing in medicine,'' said Benson, also chief of the division of behavioral medicine and the Mind/Body Medical Institute Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. ``It is our hope that this evolution will continue and build momentum for more widespread acceptance by managed care organizations and insurers.''
Since 1990, almost 1,500 research studies, research reviews, articles and clinical trials have been published on the connection of spirituality or religion to medicine and health -- a figure equal to the total of all such pieces published prior to 1990.
Consumers are voicing a need for healthcare to focus on not only physical but also spiritual needs. According to a USA Today Weekend poll, 63 percent of Americans would like their physician to discuss spirituality with them. To meet this need, medical schools and residency training programs across the country have taken notice and have begun to integrate such approaches into their curricula.
``The medical education community now recognizes the growing desire of patients for their doctors to extend care beyond textbook medicine,'' says Christina Puchalski, MD, assistant professor at George Washington University School of Medicine and director of education at the National Institute for Healthcare Research (NIHR). ``It is compelling to us as both researchers and physicians to see physicians emerging from the classroom with a greater understanding of how spirituality and healing can impact medicine.''
Founded in 1988, the Mind/Body Medical Institute is a non-profit scientific and educational institution of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center-CareGroup that is a world leader in the study and advancement of mind/body medicine. The Institute disseminates its work through Affiliates throughout the world, its Centers for Training, Corporate Health, Women's Health and Education Initiative.