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Edward Shafranske Lectures at Seattle PsychoOncology Symposium
Edward Shafranske, doctor of psychology program director, gave the opening talk, "Drawing Upon Spirituality in PsychoOncology: Opportunities and Challenges," at the Seventh Annual PsychoOncology Symposium at the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, Washington. The symposium, "Beyond the Diagnosis: Understanding and Responding to Patients' Spiritual Needs in Cancer Care," was held on Friday, Nov. 7, 2008.
Shafranske's talk examined at the role religion and spirituality play in the mental and physical well-being of cancer patients, their families, and those providing their health care.
"What I've found is that religion and spirituality serve as potential sources of coping," Shafranske says. "Research reports a complex relationship between spirituality and mental health. For some, religion is a buffer against anxiety and depression, and enhances a feeling of control and acceptance."
The professor also explored the paradoxical element of human nature, that what provides a sense of comfort to one person can be a source of anxiety, or even anger, to another.
"For other patients and caregivers, religious involvement can increase depression, particularly for those who experience the illness as retribution, or punishment from God," Shafranske explains. "Many experience God as a critical figure in their lives."
The presentation also focused on how the beliefs and values of the health care provider can influence their receptivity to the spiritual experiences of their patient. "Part of the talk was interactive, as the 100 or so physicians and health workers in attendance assessed their attitudes to spirituality. We asked, how do physicians deal with their own emotions and faiths, when dealing with patients of differing beliefs?"
Shafranske was also the psychology expert on a panel that included a physician and a religious minister. For more information about the symposium, visit the Swedish Cancer Institute Web site.