Speech-language pathology and spiritual care

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Mathisen, BA & Threats, T 2018, 'Speech-language pathology and spiritual care', in LB Carey & BA Mathisen (eds.) Spiritual care for allied health practice : a person-centred approach, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London, UK, pp. 22-54. ISBN 9781784505011

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Peer Reviewed



All health disciplines are increasingly recognizing the importance of understanding diversity to provide best quality assessment and intervention. Religious and spiritual belief systems are an integral part of the lives of most people in the world and thus a crucial aspect of diversity. Within a given country there is often a wide range of religious belief, including those without religious beliefs. With increased immigration and refugees from diverse populations, there is a need for speech-language pathologists in Minority World countries (e.g. United States, Europe, Australia) to understand faiths different from the already present diverse groups traditionally in a given country. A systematic review of the literature was undertaken with regard to religion and spirituality and speech-language pathology. Results indicated that in the medical, nursing and allied health literature (especially in occupational therapy and social work), there is a growing recognition that spiritual care needs to be incorporated into routine clinical practice. In contrast, there is very little literature specifically addressing the discipline of speech-language pathology at present. However, certain themes emerge that are applicable to the profession: (1) whole person and client-centered care, (2) disability, (3) end-of-life care and (4) cultural and linguistic diversity (CALD). Caring for an increasing number of children and adults from diverse faith backgrounds presents considerable challenges to speech-language pathologists. Use of spirituality and religiosity can be difficult for clinicians depending on their own religious backgrounds. As with other aspects of caring for others, the clinician must put aside their own belief systems for the best care of their clients. It also requires an open mind toward others. It is argued that spiritual or religious care can be included as part of the role of a speech-language pathologist (where appropriate) including the use of spiritual care screening and referral on to ensure appropriate holistic care is forthcoming. What is urgently needed is for university programs in speech-language pathology to integrate spiritual education into training programs.