Sacred work? Exploring spirituality with therapists working with stroke patients with aphasia

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MacKenzie, S. (2016)

Speech and language therapists (SLT), occupational therapists (OT) and physiotherapists (PT) on stroke rehabilitation wards have long worked in an holistic way, with the client at the centre of their interventions. However, if we consider our clients to be tripartite beings, comprising body, mind and spirit, do we, in fact, give credence to the spiritual dimension? Are there particular considerations in this regard when we consider those patients who present with communication difficulties following a stroke? Are we able to facilitate expressions of spiritual distress/need in our clients with aphasia who have difficulty verbalising their thoughts and, if so, is it our role to do so? As part of a larger study exploring stories of spirituality with people with aphasia, I interviewed members of the multidisciplinary team on an acute stroke ward. I wanted to explore their understanding of their professional role vis-à-vis spirituality. This article focusses on some of the themes which emerged in the interviews with the therapists on the stroke ward: an OT, SLT and PT. Using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, I encouraged them to talk about their interventions with people with aphasia, their definition of spirituality, and whether they considered facilitation of expressions of spirituality in their clients with aphasia part of their therapeutic remit. Although, of course, this represents a very small sample of therapists, nevertheless some interesting themes have begun to emerge, which I hope will contribute to further dialogue.
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