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Table 2. Exploring Spiritual/Religious Concerns in Adults With Cancera

Health Care Provider Inquiry Question for Patient 
aAdapted from Kristeller et al.[6]
Introduce issue in neutral inquiring manner.“When dealing with a serious illness, many people draw on religious or spiritual beliefs to help cope. It would be helpful to me to know how you feel about this.”
Inquire further, adjusting inquiry to patient’s initial response.Positive-Active Faith Response: “What have you found most helpful about your beliefs since your illness?”
Neutral-Receptive Response: “How might you draw on your faith or spiritual beliefs to help you?”
Spiritually Distressed Response (e.g., expression of anger or guilt): “Many people feel that way…what might help you come to terms with this?”
Defensive/Rejecting Response: “It sounds like you’re uncomfortable I brought this up. What I’m really interested in is how you are coping…can you tell me about that?”
Continue to explore further as indicated.“I see. Can you tell me more (about…)?”
Inquire about ways of finding meaning and a sense of peace.“Is there some way in which you are able to find a sense of meaning or peace in the midst of this?”
Inquire about resources.“Whom do you have to talk to about this/these concerns?”
Offer assistance as appropriate and available.“Perhaps we can arrange for you to talk to someone/There’s a support group I can suggest/There are some reading materials in the waiting room.”
Bring inquiry to a close.“I appreciate you discussing these issues with me. May I ask about it again?”


  1. Kristeller JL, Rhodes M, Cripe LD, et al.: Oncologist Assisted Spiritual Intervention Study (OASIS): patient acceptability and initial evidence of effects. Int J Psychiatry Med 35 (4): 329-47, 2005.  [PUBMED Abstract]