Indian Journal of PsychiatryIndian Journal of Psychiatry
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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 21-29

Theory and practice of chaplain's spiritual care process: A psychiatrist's experiences of chaplaincy and conceptualizing trans-personal model of mindfulness

Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA, Adibhat Foundation for Integrating Medicine and Spirituality, Greater Kailash-I, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ramakrishnan Parameshwaran
Center for Study of World Religions, 42 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.148511

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Background: Of various spiritual care methods, mindfulness meditation has found consistent application in clinical intervention and research. "Listening presence," a chaplain's model of mindfulness and its trans-personal application in spiritual care is least understood and studied. Aim: The aim was to develop a conceptualized understanding of chaplain's spiritual care process based on neuro-physiological principles of mindfulness and interpersonal empathy. Materials and Methods: Current understandings on neuro-physiological mechanisms of mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) and interpersonal empathy such as theory of mind and mirror neuron system are used to build a theoretical framework for chaplain's spiritual care process. Practical application of this theoretical model is illustrated using a carefully recorded clinical interaction, in verbatim, between chaplain and his patient. Qualitative findings from this verbatim are systematically analyzed using neuro-physiological principles. Results and Discussion: Chaplain's deep listening skills to experience patient's pain and suffering, awareness of his emotions/memories triggered by patient's story and ability to set aside personal emotions, and judgmental thoughts formed intra-personal mindfulness. Chaplain's insights on and ability to remain mindfully aware of possible emotions/thoughts in the patient, and facilitating patient to return and re-return to become aware of internal emotions/thoughts helps the patient develop own intra-personal mindfulness leading to self-healing. This form of care involving chaplain's mindfulness of emotions/thoughts of another individual, that is, patient, may be conceptualized as trans-personal model of MBI. Conclusion: Chaplain's approach may be a legitimate form of psychological therapy that includes inter and intra-personal mindfulness. Neuro-physiological mechanisms of empathy that underlie Chaplain's spiritual care process may establish it as an evidence-based clinical method of care.



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