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  • Martin van den Bergh

A Jewish Approach to Pastoral Care

My approach to Pastoral Care is based my PhD thesis, which was: "A critical examination of patient-centred spiritual care from a Jewish perspective, and its implications for healthcare chaplaincy and spiritual care". I reflected on on the capacities needed for chaplains and lay visitors to engage in patient spiritual care in a paradigm of patient centred care, and demonstrated how my perspective of Jewish Theology and practice can engage in patient spiritual care. This was based on the following premises:


  • That spirituality is part of the human condition

  • That the human condition is fallible especially when facing existential challenges

  • That the human condition is not boundless, including the issues of autonomy, person-centred care, self-empowerment and self-determination, as much as we try to push the boundaries

  • The human condition is complex, and is full of ambiguities, and has possibly become more complex as the bounds of possibilities and influences have been extended. Yet a spiritual presence may simply be a matter of a hug.


Two questions were at the heart of my research:

a) Whether spiritual care is a core part of patient care, or dependent on patient choice.

b) How healthcare chaplaincy more particularly faith chaplains and spiritual carers can continue to provide patient spiritual care in a negotiated mutual pastoral encounter with patients, and that would meet the terms of the Act?


I felt there was a need to examine these questions together with the trends of individualisation and secularisations, and in light of the paradigm of patient-centred care, which has been promoted since the NHS Plan of 2000 (1), and the subsequent Plan, to argue that spiritual care should still be a part of patient care.


Taking into account my own Jewish background I focused on Jewish attitudes to pastoral care, and the outcomes of my work included:


  • Having regard for the other

  • Creating a spiritual presence

  • Negotiating a mutual encounter and dialogue as symbolised by the Jewish theological teaching to sit along side the patient

  • Facilitating and empowering the patient to recognise their own innate spiritual strengths and a dynamic spiritual process

  • Understanding that religious doctrines cannot be imposed on patients

These outcomes, while pertinent for providing patient spiritual care, can also be applicable for supporting people in different scenarios.




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