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A spiritual approach

A spiritual approach

In the health care professions there are many different methods used to teach the skills and art of each discipline. Traditionally, formal lectures, personal study, tutorials and practical experience are used alongside apprenticeship learning. The Values in Healthcare approach requires teaching in small groups with exercises and activities which are mainly experiential. In order to emphasise and explore the essential connection between people’s humanity and their experience of living and working, the Values in Healthcare programme introduces participants to seven tools for learning, called ‘spiritual tools’. These tools provide the means by which participants engage with inner exploration and apply their insights to a wide range of situations and problems. They are briefly described below.

The Learning Tools



in this programme involves participants being silent at times and using that time to learn about their mind and their thoughts. They are encouraged to employ positive and peaceful thoughts to experience quietening their minds and bringing calm to their work.



involves using the mind to create positive images which can help to address past negative experiences and associated feelings of failure or frustration and create aims for the future. Visualisation exercises can help to build participants’ self-respect and positive attitudes.



is much used within healthcare training. Reflective practice involves learning from past experience to evaluate concerns and improve clinical practice. The spiritual approach to reflection helps participants to take a calm, detached view of themselves, rather like an observer, so that they can examine their own emotional reactions and release them. New and creative ways of approaching challenging situations can then be considered from a place of clarity. Reflection is used to identify and affirm positive experiences as well as facilitate a degree of detachment.



is an essential skill in health care, and the quality of how we listen can bring benefit not only to those being listened to, but to ourselves as listeners. Listening as a spiritual tool involves participants in deep listening and requires inner peace. Only then can full attention and focus on what a person is saying be given, with an open heart and without judgement.



is an important tool in patient care, interaction with colleagues and personal life. As a spiritual skill, it values what works best in individuals and groups, drawing on existing strengths and shared values to seek solutions, rather than focusing on the problem and apportioning blame. In healthcare the emphasis is often on developing a critical attitude. While this is essential in technical medical care, practising appreciation can help participants recognise the value of the human contribution and encourage co-operation between colleagues and within teams.



encourages the discovery of new solutions. As a spiritual skill it emphasises the premise that ideas come to us when we give ourselves silent space and let go of our preconceptions. As part of the Values in Healthcare programme, participants are encouraged to experience the creativity which can flow though drawing, writing poetry, and visualisation. Facilitators are encouraged to experiment in exploring values in creative ways. For everyone, the sessions may involve taking risks by behaving outside our normal roles. However, the experience of heightened creativity and its application to problem solving will be a positive learning outcome.



introduces the idea that it is legitimate to experience fun and laughter as part of the learning process. Being playful is being spontaneous and carefree, with a willingness to let go of barriers and overcome difficulties. While participants may feel inhibited at first, playing simple games can be a moving experience, connecting people at a deeper level and allowing everyone to ‘just be themselves’. The sense of lightness inherent in play encourages tolerance in our listening and softness in our judgements.

The Seven Modules

The introductory module and the seven one day modules each explore one theme in depth, from personal and professional perspectives. Exercises have been carefully sequenced to offer incremental/progressive insight, so that participants can build on their own learning and experiences. The themes covered include :

Introductory workshop : Building resilience – a response to stress & burnout.

  • 1: Values

    gain strength through motivation

  • 2: Peace

    benefit from being calm

  • 3: Positivity

    harness the power of thoughts

  • 4: Compassion

    release healing energy

  • 5: Co-operation

    appreciate the wisdom of teams

  • 6: Valuing Yourself

    sustaining the carer

  • 7: Spirituality in Healthcare

    spiritual care in practice

The introductory module and seven modules are almost infinitely adaptable to an organisation’s training needs. Values in Healthcare can be completed in a sequence of eight continuous days, or as one-day stand-alone workshops, or as two half-day workshops. Specific exercises and workshops can also be abstracted from the modules and incorporated into an organisation’s wider development programme.

A note on the introductory module:

Building Resilience is designed as an introduction to the Values in Healthcare: a spiritual approach (VIHASA) programme. It explores the notion of resilience as a way of responding to challenges and adapting to stress in a resourceful way. Some people seem to bounce back from difficult times, while others may decline into depression or ill-health. What can we learn from looking at the qualities of resilience demonstrated by those who seem to triumph over adversity? This module helps participants to identify those qualities, experience what it feels like to express them in action, and then to apply the insights they’ve learned to their own work and personal lives.

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