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The significance of belief and expectancy within the spiritual healing encounter


  • Wirth, Daniel P.


Historically, traditional cultures recognized the importance of belief and expectancy within the healing encounter and created complex rituals and ceremonies designed to elicit or foster the expectancy and participation of both the healer and patient, as well as the community as a whole. This holistic approach to health care was a fundamental component in the spiritual healing rituals of virtually all traditional native cultures. The focus of the current study was to assess the impact of healer and patient expectations on mental and physical health parameters following a spiritual healing session. A pre-post methodological design which incorporated extensive psychophysiological health outcome measures along with independent medical diagnoses was utilized. The study was conducted in a northern California suburb of Marin County utilizing an American-born spiritual healer trained in the Philippines. The results indicated that there was a statistically significant difference between the pre-treatment and post-treatment scores for all fourteen dependent variables examined. The data also demonstrated a significant difference between the high versus low expectancy subjects for both patient and healer groups, as well as a significant relationship between high expectancy in patients and healer and the effectiveness of the spiritual healing encounter. The results of the study therefore suggest that high healer and patient expectancy may be important elements which can serve as both predictors as well as facilitators of the healing process. The degree of bonding or communication between the healer and patient was postulated as an important factor in this regard. Due to the fact that a majority of the concitions reported (75%) were organic disorders that would not commonly disappear within the 3 week time frame of the study, the significant results obtained suggest that spiritual healing in combination with traditional allopathic medicine may have the potential to be an effective treatment protocol for severe or long-term disorders. An important contributing feature of this study was that an independent means of assessing the patients' self-reports, i.e. an allopathic medical examination, was included in the experiment. There was a significant correlation between the patient's expectation level and their assessment of improvement, as well as a significant relationship between the patient's assessment of their condition and the objective evaluations provided by independent medical examinations.

Suggested Citation

  • Wirth, Daniel P., 1995. "The significance of belief and expectancy within the spiritual healing encounter," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 249-260, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:41:y:1995:i:2:p:249-260

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