The Relationship Between Religion and Health Part 2/3
Meet Dr. Harold G. Koeing, co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center, who researches the connection between religion and health. Part 2/3.
Laura Wells: As a physician Dr. Koenig deals with the physical and psychological aspects of diseases however, his effort does not end there. If someone sincerely involve in the well being of his patients. He inquires about their spiritual struggles as well as encourages them to reach for the strength and their souls. Dr. Koenig is also involve in scientific research in this area, directs a spiritually focus therapy program and coordinates with chaplains who have special training in faith support.
Male: In his book the healing power of faith, how belief and prayer can help you triumph over disease, Dr. Koenig gives his patient’s stories to illustrate how faith helps people to cope with disease.
Dr. Harold Koenig: My patient’s stories have a lot to do with might going into the area of religion spirituality and health. I was interested in how patients were coping with their illness and therefore I would ask them, what do you do to keep you going? What keeps you going as far as you’ve got this severe illness and you’ve got cancer or you’re disabled? What keeps your spirits up? And then people would talk about their religious faith and so that’s how I became interested.
Male: Along side his interest in the impact of religious faith on patient’s ability to cope with life threatening illness Dr. Koenig is careful to know that his expertise lies in medical and psychological treatment. He’s careful to not overstep what he considers the boundaries of his profession.
Dr. Harold Koenig: My typical session with the patient is really focused on their psychiatric illness because as a psychiatrist, that’s what I do. I don’t have any religious training so that’s not what I’m going to focus on. I’m going to focus on their mental illness, the treatments with the causes.
Male: Well, Dr. Koenig expertise is in psychiatry, he finds it important to bring in his understanding of each patient. According to Dr. Koenig, a sincere healer must take additional steps to learn about what makes a person strong and resilient. A significant part of this resiliency comes from a person’s cultural, ethnic and religious background. Often simply acknowledging and supporting that is enough.
Dr. Harold Koenig: I’m going to try to learn about their religious spiritual beliefs and if they have religious beliefs, I may support those beliefs. I will say, well that’s great that your part of a faith community. Keep it up. Keep it up, that’s great. It’s good that you have faith in God. That can bring you comfort so keep it up. I don’t tell them to become religious but I will support what the patient tells me helps them. So if the patient tells me their religious faith prayer, reading the scriptures helps them then I will support then say, that’s great. I think doing that is something that you can do on your own for yourself and I want you take the medicine and you take the medicine, you depend on your faith, they work beautifully together. So I want to encourage and support you in doing that.
Male: This approach works well in the work of supporting his patients healing and recovery. Psychiatric care works effectively in tandem with earnest listening and a genuine attempt to understand the patient’s experience.
Dr. Harold Koenig: I do a lot of support. I give medications too to people who are very depress or very anxious. And the medicine seems to help them as well. So I do a lot of supportive therapy as well as prescribing medications and then I ask people about their spiritual lives because I think that has a big impact on their ability to cope with their illness and find new meaning in whatever state they may find themselves in.
Male: Dr. Koenig interest in the interaction between spirituality and health let him to research and training in that area. He now directs Duke University Center for the Study of Religion, Spirituality and Health. The Center conducts research and training to enable to healthcare providers to integrate spiritual understanding and support into their medical practice.
Dr. Harold Koenig: We have a center for the study of religions, spirituality and health here at Duke University Medical Center and this is a center that focuses on research, conducting research and in advising others to do research and also supporting research through glance and it’s also focused on training people. Training people to conducted research, teaching them how to go about measuring and studying and applying the scientific method to the looking at the relationship between religion and health. We also are very interested in teaching clinicians, doctors, nurses, social workers on how to apply the findings from research to their clinical practice.
Male: According to Dr. Koenig, one of the reasons that poor health and spirituality seemed to go hand and hand is the very nature of illness. Ordinary daily life does not permit one time to think about the deeper questions of existence. When sickness brings a whole to ordinary life, people find that they have the time to think about health, prayer, faith, God and life after death.
Dr. Harold Koenig: And our study show that at least in the southern United States here, the Southeast, 98% of people begin to think about this issues when they get sick when they get sick and in the hospital 9 out of 10 patients are in some way thinking about it even when their not consciously thinking about it its happening to some degree unconsciously because you can't face death and potential disability without wondering what ahead that’s just not human its human to question and to try to understand where you’re going why you’re here and what purpose your life serves, its just human you can't escape it.
Male: According to Dr. Koenig its important to recognize the value of listening to and supporting the spiritual stories told by patients however we must recognize that the acknowledgement of spiritual needs requires a different types of expertise than many medical staff have in keeping with Doctor Koenig’s own sense of boundaries between his cord of patients spirituality and his area of psychiatric expertise the Duke Medical Center established the Chaplaincy Service. Chaplains receive specialized education from organizations such as the association for clinical pastoral; education. In the US, many hospitals and hospices employ chaplains to assist to the spiritual needs of the patients, families and staff.
Dr. Harold Koenig: We don’t want the doctor or the nurse to be addressing spiritual struggles we want the chaplain to be doing that. The chaplain is trained across all religions and can address the needs of the person regardless of you’re particular religious faith so a Chaplin is a very well trained person who can, who is specially trained to deal with this issues regarding meaning and purpose and control from many different religious perspectives.
Male: in many cases the simply the opportunity to address these questions allows patients to open up. This outlet to express worries and deeper their sense of meaning in life is in itself beneficial to a persons health. This is something that can't do themselves
Dr. Harold Koenig: I think that many patients by simply talking responding to the doctor’s questions about their religious beliefs enable the person to talk about this spiritual struggles and that by itself does the person good
Male: In 1986 Dr. Koenig and their team visited 1718 participants and measured intermittent six as a principle indicator of immune system strength. The results of this research is worthy of note among those who never attended religious services 15.7% percent had indications of weak immune systems. Among those who attend services at an intermediate degree 11% percent had indications of weak immune systems. Among those who attended religious services regularly such as at least weekly only 8.8% percent had indications of weak immune systems.
Dr. Harold Koenig: We have shown in studies here at Duke that when people patients are experiencing religious or spiritual struggles and their sick that that adversely affects their survival. We have been able to show that mortality rate is significantly higher among people who are having these spiritual struggles that are not being attended to or not being addressed.
Male: Doctor Thomas Oxman studied cardiac surgery patients at Dartmouth University. Among 232 patients none of the 37 people who described themselves as deeper religious died after the surgery whereas among those who never attended religious services or rarely attended 12% percent died.
The Relationship Between Religion and Health Part 2/3
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