Understanding and addressing religious and spiritual struggles in health care

Hisham Abu-Raiya, Kenneth I. Pargament, Julie J. Exline

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Religious and spiritual struggles are expressions of conflict, question, and doubt regarding matters of faith, God, and religious relationships. They can take three main forms: (1) supernatural struggles, (2) interpersonal struggles, and (3) intrapersonal struggles. Empirical studies have consistently linked these struggles to poorer health and well-being. The findings of these studies highlight the clinical relevance of religious and spiritual struggles, suggesting that health care providers, who strive to deliver effective and religiously and spiritually sensitive treatment, cannot avoid this potentially influential aspect in the lives of their clients. This article aimed to assist mental health professionals in understanding and addressing this phenomenon. Toward this end, the authors summarized the empirical findings in this area, proposed a conceptual framework to explicate these findings, and suggested five recommendations that can be applied to address religious and spiritual struggles in treatment. The authors hope that this article serves as a valuable guide for health care providers interested in this stimulating yet challenging area of research and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e126-e134
JournalHealth and Social Work
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • Religion
  • Religious and spiritual struggles
  • Spirituality


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