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Winter-Spring 2016 Newsletter

Volume 14, Number 2
Published February 12, 2016

Edited by Chaplain John Ehman, Network Convener

Network members are encouraged to submit articles for upcoming issues.
The Newsletter is published three times a year: Fall, Winter-Spring, and Summer.



  1.     Annual Research Network Business Meeting and the ACPE Conference
  2.     Editor's Comment: A Call for Replication Studies
  3.     Presentations Online from the 2016 NAJC Conference
  4.     Workshops at the APC Conference, June 23rd-26th
  5.     Third Annual Caring for the Human Spirit Conference, April 11th-13th
  6.     Duke Spirituality and Health Workshop, August 15th-19th
  7.     World Psychiatric Association Position Statement
  8.     The Evolution of Spiritual Assessment Tools in Healthcare
  9.     Online Lectures from the Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality at Harvard University
10.     Mary Martha Thiel's "Five Questions I'd Like to See Addressed through Research" --Focusing on Spiritual Care of the Non-Religious
11.     Larson Fellowship in Health and Spirituality at the Library of Congress


1.   Annual Research Network Business Meeting and the ACPE Conference

Our annual Network business meeting will be on Saturday, May 21, 2015, from 8:45 to 10:15 AM, at the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel (1550 Court Place, Denver, CO 80202), as part of the ACPE's national conference. Please send any agenda items to This will be a time to share projects and interests, discuss how to promote research in the ACPE, and accomplish essential business.

The ACPE conference, running May 18th-21st, will include a Special Event on Thursday the 19th at 6:30: Transforming Chaplaincy: CPE Research Literacy Curriculum Development Grants, led by George Fitchett and Lex Tartaglia. The session will address the partnership between the ACPE and the Transforming Chaplaincy project. The program will include an overview of the Transforming Chaplaincy grant and the CPE curriculum development component of the grant, describe select curriculum proposals from the first cohort of grant recipients, and provide opportunity for discussion among that cohort. There will also be occasion for Q&A for those interested in applying to become part of the second cohort for CPE Curriculum Development grants, which will be awarded in 2017. Cohort members and prospective applicants should contact Kathryn Lyndes, project coordinator of the Transforming Chaplaincy project, by April 19, 2016, at 312-942-0247 or for more information, costs, scholarships, or to register.


2.   Editor's Comment: A Call for Replication Studies

Originality in research is deeply rewarding. It is that quality of a project which suggests ingenious discovery, which excites, and which draws the attention of funders who desire the biggest "bang" for their buck. It is the stuff of press releases and speaker introductions, because it points at a glance to a where-no-one-has-gone-before achievement. It is certainly essential to the very endeavor of science. And yet, the drive for originality in research can also have a downside: it can pull away effort from, and funding for, the equally essential work of testing and retesting results and the methodologies by which they are gained. Scientific knowledge isn�t ultimately valuable for its novelty but for its proven reliability. As for what this means for the field of spirituality & health research: while the literature continues to grow rapidly, there is an abundance of one-off studies that offer interesting and promising insights but relatively little in the way of knowledge that can be considered reliable and resilient enough for more than a modest level of generalization and application. There are very few study replications to confirm and deepen our sense of original findings, and that is unfortunate.

Last year, a team of researchers at the Center for Open Science in Charlottesville, VA, reported on a multi-year Reproducibility Project which sought to reproduce the results of 100 psychology studies in leading journals, in an effort to get a sense of the reliability of published findings in that field. An alarming 60% of the studies did not hold up to attempts to reproduce their results. It�s important to note that no fraud was uncovered, and a failure to replicate the results of any one study doesn�t invalidate that study; the Project has simply indicated on the whole that claims of knowledge from reputed sources in psychological science seem to be weaker than commonly assumed, and individual studies even in peer-reviewed journals deserve greater scrutiny. Now the Project is itself not without its critics, and its own findings have stirred much controversy and media attention, but it clearly has highlighted the need for replication studies. In "Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science" [Science 349, no. 6251 (August 28, 2015): 943 (print) and acc4716 pp. 1-8 (online full article)], the authors from the Project conclude:

As much as we might wish it to be otherwise, a single study almost never provides definitive resolution for or against an effect and its explanation. The original studies examined here offered tentative evidence; the replications we conducted offered additional, confirmatory evidence. In some cases, the replications increase confidence in the reliability of the original results; in other cases, the replications suggest that more investigation is needed to establish the validity of the original findings. Scientific progress is a cumulative process of uncertainty reduction that can only succeed if science itself remains the greatest skeptic of its explanatory claims. �We conducted this project because we care deeply about the health of our discipline and believe in its promise for accumulating knowledge about human behavior that can advance the quality of the human condition. Reproducibility is central to that aim. Accumulating evidence is the scientific community�s method of self-correction and is the best available option for achieving that ultimate goal: truth.� [p. acc4716-7]
There may be a lesson here for chaplain researchers: for while the field of spirituality & health is still in an early phase of development, it may never be too early to encourage replication studies, and to create incentives for this since there seems to be little natural incentive for such important work. In a piece about the Reproducibility Project for the 8/27/15 issue of The Atlantic, writer Ed Yong says of the involved researchers, "There would be no glory, no empirical eurekas, no breaking of fresh ground." Nevertheless, their efforts have contributed to shoring up the very knowledge base of a discipline. As chaplaincy organizations increasingly emphasize research, including the pursuit of original research, this avid fan of the literature hopes that there will develop an honored place for replications of key studies --to help broadly check our knowledge base.

Many of the Article-of-the-Month studies on our Network site are within the grasp of chaplains to replicate, and there is an array of measures that are backed up by only single tests of validity and reliability. Re-engaging such research could be a useful as well as effective strategy for chaplains newer to conducting studies to gain experience in methodology and process by following the thoughtful examples of published investigators, maybe even in a partnership with them. There are real mentoring possibilities here, and replications can themselves generate new thinking about data and new prospects for further study. While we admire originality in research, let us also reward the essential work of replication. Without the reproducibility of results, the scientific literature becomes little more than a string of intriguing ideas.

--John Ehman, Convener, ACPE Research Network (


3.   Presentations Online from the 2016 NAJC Conference

Research was a significant element in the National Association of Jewish Chaplains' 2016 conference (January 17th-20th in Baltimore, MD), which explored the theme of Voices of the Voiceless: Advocacy in Spiritual Care --Experiential and Research-Based Advocacy as a Form of Spiritual Care. The NAJC has now posted conference presentations online, including the following:


4.   Workshops at the APC Conference, June 23rd-26th

The Association of Professional Chaplains' 2016 conference will be held June 23rd-26th in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Network members attending should note especially the opportunities to engage topics of research, including a session with poster presenters on Saturday, June 25th, from 5:30-6:45 (though the posters will be displayed throughout the conference) and the following workshops:

Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods (Professional Development Intensive), by Daniel Grossoehme
Thursday, June 23rd, 8:00-12:00
Description: Qualitative research methods may be the most accessible to chaplains and can yield rich data when well-designed and executed. However, such studies must still be well-designed and analyzed properly. This workshop will present three commonly used qualitative methodologies (content analysis, grounded theory, and phenomenology), including the indications and the contraindications for the use of each. Aspects of study design, building a research team, data collection (focus groups, interviews, texts, and drawings), data analysis, and research ethics will be covered.

Writing up Your Research Study for Publications (90-minute Workshop), by Daniel Grossoehme
Saturday, June 25th, 10:15-11:45
Description: This workshop will focus on getting beyond "writer's block" and discussing the qualities that got into a high-quality manuscript that presents your novel findings to a wider readership. The first rule: never start by writing the "introduction"! Differences in approach between writing for chaplaincy, medical, and psychology journals will be discussed, as well as the ethics of research and authorship. The review process and its implications for you as the author will be presented. We will also talk about how to handle the feedback and revise your manuscript.

Claiming Our Place at the Table: Chaplain Research Initiatives (90-minute Workshop), by Sarah A. Shirley, Gary Hensley, Marjan G. Holloway, Stephen W. Krauss, and Laura L. Neely
Saturday, June 25th, 10:15-11:45
Description: Special Operations Forces (SOF) are frequently employed in dangerous situations. These Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are extremely resilient; even so, 15 years of continuous war has taken its toll. Family separation, moral injury, grief, and other spiritual issues demand care. The Special Operations Command Chaplain has directed development of new training, education and research initiatives to better equip chaplains to support SOF members and their families: 1) Spiritual Performance Scale development; 2) Suicide Pre/Postvention Guide for SOF Chaplains; and 3) Advanced SOF Chaplain Course. This workshop presents initial results of these projects.


5.     Third Annual Caring for the Human Spirit Conference, April 11th-13th

The HealthCare Chaplaincy Network (New York, NY) will hold the third Caring for the Human Spirit conference on April 11th-13th, 2016 in San Diego, CA. The event is designed for chaplains, physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers, and allied professionals; and research will be a prominent theme throughout. Featured speakers this year include Harvey Max Chochinov from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada; Tracy A. Balboni from the Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA; George Fitchett from the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL; Carlo Leget from the University of Humanistic Studies, Utretch, The Netherlands; and Kevin Massey from Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge, IL. Among the plenaries and workshops that indicate a special emphasis on research (in chronological order):

  • Plenary session: "Dignity, Person and Deconstructing Connectedness," by Harvey Max Chochinov (--to include an overview of empirical work explicating the construct of dignity in palliative care), 4/11/16 @ 9:00-10:30
  • Workshop: "The Assessment of Spirituality and Religious Sentiments Scale (ASPIRES): Its Value for Research and Practice," by Ralph L. Piedmont, 4/11/16 @ 10:50-12:20
  • Workshop on "Spiritual Assessment and Interventional Model: An Interactive Workshop," by Laura B. Dunn, Michele Shields, and Allison Kestenbaum (--to include a review of qualitative and quantitative research findings from a mixed-methods study of the model, and current/future research), 4/11/16 @ 1:00-3:30
  • Workshop: "Promoting Excellence in Spiritual Documentation," by Daniel R. Judd, Elizabeth Fauth, and Amy Anderson (--to include a review of research conducted by the presenters regarding Hospice Chaplains� documentation), 4/11/16 @ 1:00-3:30
  • Plenary session: "Spirituality in Medicine: From Asclepius to P-Values," by Tracy A. Balboni (-- to address how empirical research can be used as a tool to help medical practitioners to understand the role of spirituality and of spiritual care in the lives of their patients; and to review what empirical research has shown us thus far about the role of spirituality and of spiritual care in the practice of medicine), 4/12/16 @ 10:00-11:10
  • Plenary session: "Small, Medium and Large: Three Approaches for Advancing Chaplaincy Research," by George Fitchett (--describing the three approaches and offering guidance to identify which is most appropriate for particular settings; and outlining next steps needed to advance chaplaincy research), 4/12/16 @ 10:10-11:10
  • Workshop: "Chaplain Documentation in the Electronic Health Record: Current Practice/New Horizons," by M. Jeanne Wirpsa, Rebecca Johnson, and Matthew Sakumoto (--to cover findings of a mixed method study of charting practices of experienced chaplains in an intensive care unit of an acute care hospital over an 18-month period, and to offer insight into the role of a chaplain on a research team), 4/12/16 @ 1:30-3:00
  • Workshop: "Spiritual Triage," by Julie Fletcher (--to focus on a triage tool developed using evidence-based models in current research), 4/12/16 @ 2:00-3:30
  • Workshop: "Spiritual Care and Social Work: Partnering for Best Practice Outcomes for Team and Clients," by Karen Grant and Donna Bottomley (--to note research indicating that client safety and reduced costs to health care occur as a team work together), 4/12/16 @ 2:00-3:30
  • Workshop: "Using a Christian Philosophy to Incorporate Spiritual Assessment into Practice and Research," by Sharon Christman and Beth Delaney (--to cover how to measure spirituality, spiritual well-being, and spiritual distress using reliable and valid measurement tools and how to correlate measures of spiritual well-being with measures of physical well-being), 4/12/16 @ 3:30-5:00
  • Workshop: "Reforming Chaplaincy Training," by David Fleenor and Deborah B. Marin (--to include a review of the literature regarding evidence-based chaplaincy training practices), 4/12/16 @ 3:50-5:20
  • Workshop: "Patient Factors Associated With Receiving Chaplaincy Care: Findings from a Study of Patients with Traumatic Brain Injury," by George Fitchett, Jay Risk, Erin Emery-Tiburicio, and Susan D. Horn (--to include a critical examination of an instrument developed to collect data about the type and amount of chaplain care provided), 4/13/16 @ 9:10-10:40
  • Workshop: "A New National Survey of Hospital Directors: The Number, Roles and Functions of Hospital Chaplains," by George F. Handzo and Eric J. Hall (--to cover basic principles and process behind mounting and completing an online survey and implications of the presented survey for growth strategies for chaplaincy), 4/13/16 @ 9:10-10:40
  • Workshop: "Share the Care: A Compassionate Caregiving Model Supported by Research and Practice," by Sheila Warnock and Amy Hegener (--to cover basic principles and process behind mounting and completing an online survey and implications of the presented survey for growth strategies for chaplaincy), 4/13/16 @ 9:10-10:40
  • Workshop: "Developing Spiritual Care for the Cancer Community," by Andrew Joseph (--to include a consideration of data collected via patients, caregivers and health care providers on what works best so that current best practices can be shared), 4/13/16 @ 11:00-12:30
Full descriptions of the plenary and workshop sessions are available in the conference brochure.


6.     Duke Spirituality and Health Workshop, August 15th-19th

For the thirteenth year, the Duke Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, in Durham, NC, will hold its five-day research-oriented summer workshop, August 15-19, 2016, hosted by Dr. Harold G. Koenig. The event is recognized by the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) as an educational event providing 30.5 hours of continuing education that can be applied to the educational hours required by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc. Tuition discounts are available. Enrollment will be limited to approximately 25 participants.

A brief description from the event's publicity is as follows:

Each workshop compresses material presented in our past 12-month post-doctoral fellowship into 5 days, and is the only place in the world where specific training on how to conduct research on religion, spirituality and health can be obtained from researchers active in the field for over 25 years. We recommend these courses for researchers early in their career and for seasoned researchers wishing to shift their work into spirituality and health, as well as for undergraduate and graduate students or others considering research in this area. Those more generally interested in spirituality and health will also find this workshop useful, as we cover a lot of material on this subject applicable to laypersons. [--website]

Network members may be especially interested in the workshop's recommended preparatory reading list from last year, available as a PDF by clicking HERE.


7.   World Psychiatric Association Position Statement

The World Psychiatric Association is "an association of national psychiatric societies aimed to increase knowledge and skills necessary for work in the field of mental health and the care for the mentally ill." [--from the website]. It is comprised of 138 member societies from 118 different countries, representing more than 200,000 psychiatrists. The organization includes a special Section on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry, which proposed a "Position Statement on Spirituality and Religion in Psychiatry," approved and adopted by the WPA Executive Committee in September 2015. The statement has been published in the February 2016 issue of World Psychiatry (vol. 15. no. 1, pp. 87-88).

The statement notes at the outset the "increasing public and academic awareness of the relevance of spirituality and religion to health issues" and the "more than 3,000 empirical studies investigating the relationship between religion/spirituality (R/S) and health [p. 87]. It exhorts:

Psychiatrists need to take into account all factors impacting on mental health. Evidence shows that R/S should be included among these, irrespective of psychiatrists� spiritual, religious or philosophical orientation. [p. 87]
Among the specific proposals of the statement, the following are research-oriented:
  • An understanding of religion and spirituality and their relationship to the diagnosis, etiology and treatment of psychiatric disorders should be considered as essential components of both psychiatric training and continuing professional development.
  • There is a need for more research on both religion and spirituality in psychiatry, especially on their clinical applications. These studies should cover a wide diversity of cultural and geographical backgrounds. [p. 87]
The Section on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry also produces a newsletter: Psyche and Spirit: Connecting Psychiatry and Spirituality (--links to issues are toward the bottom of the Section page).


8.   The Evolution of Spiritual Assessment Tools in Healthcare

Wendy Cadge, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Women�s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Brandeis University; author of Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine, and co-principal investigator of Transforming Chaplaincy: Promoting Research Literacy for Improved Patient Outcomes, has co-authored the following article, which offers a very good context for the research-pertinent topic of spiritual assessment.

Cadge, W. and Bandini, J. "The Evolution of Spiritual Assessment Tools in Healthcare." Society 52, no. 5 (October 2015): 430-437. [(Abstract:) This article explores the history of spiritual assessment tools as a lens through which to consider the place of spirituality and religion in American healthcare. While precise definitions of spiritual assessment have evolved with the concept, the phrase generally refers to the process of evaluating someone�s spiritual needs and resources and addressing those needs in the context of clinical healthcare. We trace the diffusion of spiritual assessment tools from their origins in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling in the 1970s through nursing, medicine and social work in subsequent decades. While engaging with patients around religion and spirituality began as the professional jurisdiction of chaplains, spiritual assessment tools were designed � in part - to enable professionals in other fields to talk with patients about these topics. As such they are both a mechanism of diffusion � a set of questions healthcare professionals who advocate for greater attention to spirituality and religion teach their colleagues to ask � and a symbolic representation of how that diffusion is taking place and where there have been conflicts and bumps along the way.] [Available in an ahead-of-print, unpaginated version through]


9.   Online Lectures from the Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality at Harvard University

The Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality at Harvard University, which "aims to be a research catalyst for an integrated model of spirituality, public health and patient care" (--from the website), offers freely online a series of videos of lectures, many of which should be of interest to researchers and chaplains. The most recent presentations are: "Spirituality and Dementia: Living in the Memories of God," by John Swinton; "Is There a Role for Spirituality in Surgical Practice?" by John Tarpley; "Initial Results from the National Clergy Survey on End of Life Care," by Michael Balboni; and "What Has Religion to Do with the Practice of Medicine?" by Farr Curlin. See the full listing, with links, at


10.  Mary Martha Thiel's "Five Questions I'd Like to See Addressed through Research" --Focusing on Spiritual Care of the Non-Religious

From the Editor: This is the fifth in a series for our Newsletter, whereby members of our Network are invited to suggest five practical questions for research that could be valuable for chaplains and/or the ACPE. It exemplifies the sort of generative thinking that takes place informally at chaplaincy gatherings but often does not reach a wider audience. Mary Martha Thiel is Director of Clinical Pastoral Education at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston and a UCC minister. She has been a significant contributor to the literature of Spirituality & Health and involved with research. An ACPE Supervisor, she brings to her work over 20 years of experience in chaplaincy and education.

She has co-authored three articles on Spiritual Care of the Non-Religious that appear in the January 2016 issue of
PlainViews [vol. 13, no. 1], which are accessible online: Rev. Thiel offers the following thoughts about possible avenues of further research.   --JE

1)  What does "Religious" mean to those who self-identify as Spiritual but Not Religious? What does "Spiritual" mean to them? [qualitative]

2)  For the Press Ganey patient satisfaction question, "How satisfied were you with how well the staff was able to meet your spiritual and emotional needs?" for patients who identify at admission as "None" or "Unaffiliated," how are the scores affected when these patients have been seen by a certified chaplain compared to not having been seen by a certified chaplain? [quantitative]

3)  How do patient satisfaction scores for the above Press Ganey question vary for patients who identify at admission as "None" or "Unaffiliated" when seen by a certified chaplain with special training in spiritual care of the non-religious, as opposed to having been seen by a certified chaplain who has not received this special training? [quantitative]

4)  How do patient satisfaction scores for the above Press Ganey question vary when patients have received their spiritual care from persons of other disciplines (than chaplaincy) who have been trained in Spiritual Generalist skills, compared to when patients have received their spiritual care from certified chaplains? [quantitative]

5)  How do patient satisfaction scores for the above Press Ganey question vary for patients who received spiritual care from certified chaplains from their own faith group/spiritual identification, compared to those for patients who received spiritual care from certified chaplains across faith group/spiritual identification? [quantitative]


11.  Larson Fellowship in Health and Spirituality at the Library of Congress

Applications are being accepted until April 17, 2016 for the David B. Larson Fellowship in Health and Spirituality by the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. This stipended ($4,200/month), full-time residency opportunity is open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who hold a doctoral degree. Detailed information is available at Dr. David Larson was a key figure in spirituality and health research and in the integration on spirituality into the modern medical dialogue. This fellowship "encourage[s] the pursuit of scholarly excellence in the scientific study of the relation of religiousness and spirituality to physical, mental, and social health" [--from the Kluge Center announcement].

Questions may be addressed to Jason Steinhauer, Program Specialist, Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress at or 202-707-0213.



If you have suggestions about the form and/or content of the site, e-mail Chaplain John Ehman (Network Convener) at .
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