If religious faith is important to you, how should you take a spiritual history of your doctor?

The better your spiritual health, the more likely you are to experience improved physical, mental, emotional, and relational health outcomes. Therefore, finding a healthcare professional that shares your spiritual foundation and practice can be critical. But, how can you do this? 

My Take?

In my book, God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Person, I make the case that it’s actually fairly simple. You can use a tool I call a “spiritual inventory.”

Increasingly doctors are using spiritual inventories (or “histories”) in their care of patients. In fact, when I make presentations in medical centers, medical schools, and at professional meetings, the subject most often asked about is how doctors can take useful spiritual inventories of their patients. 

Well, in the same way that a doctor can inquire about a patient’s spiritual belief system, so can a patient. 

Now, your health care givers may be surprised to be asked the questions you would raise when taking their spiritual inventory – as I suspect it rarely happens! 

Nevertheless, a winning healthcare professional should be perfectly willing to let you know where he or she stands on these issues. 

Furthermore, with alternative or complementary caregivers, these questions can be critical. Why? Because at least some of these folk use their therapy to actively recruit unsuspecting patients into spiritual belief systems that I consider highly unhealthy.

So, here are just a few questions you may want to ask at your interview of the prospective health care provider or during your first official appointment. I’ll bet you can come up some of your own to add. 

1. Are you willing to consider my religious and spiritual preferences as you care for me?

2. Are you open to me discussing with you the religious or spiritual implications of my health care?

3. Are you willing to work with my spiritual mentors (pastor, priest, rabbi, elder, etc.) and other members of my health care team (family, friends, mentor, support group, etc.) in providing me the best possible health care?

4. Are you willing to pray with me, or for me, if I feel I need prayer?

5. What does spirituality mean to you? Or, how much is religion (and/or God) a source of strength and comfort to you? 

6. Have you ever had an experience that convinced you that God or a higher power exists?

7. How strongly religious/spiritually oriented do you consider yourself to be?

8. Do you pray? If so, how frequently? 

9. Do you attend religious services? If so, how often do you generally attend?

I realize that most people would be highly unlikely to follow my suggestion to ask a provider all these questions– especially on a first meeting. 

However, if your spirituality is very important to you and if you desire a provider who shares your worldview and beliefs, then all nine questions might by useful for you to discuss with your physician at some point.

For highly healthy people, who are working to inflate and balance their spiritual wheel, I believe that asking Questions 1-4 is perfectly reasonable – and, I would expect, to most physicians and providers, acceptable. 

Questions 5-9 might be considered by some as simply being too personal and intimate to ask of a total stranger. 

So, if you’re not there – no problem. 

But, at least consider asking the first four questions. All four of your health wheels (physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual), as well as your trust relationship with your healthcare professional, will be strengthened by having frank discussions such as these.