Integrative Therapies
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Practitioner Statement

History & Philosophy

Treatment Approaches

How it works & when to use it

What you need to know about treatment

Training & Licensing

Prayer — What you need to know about treatment

Description of a Session
Sessions can take various forms. A health care practitioner can pray privately for a patient or actively with a patient during a session. The patient can engage in private prayer that can reflect a specific denominational outlook or a meditative reflective experience. The patient can pray alone, with friends or family or request chaplaincy services in a hospital setting. In addition, others who are not with the patient and/or may not even know the patient can pray for improvement of the patient’s health and overall well being. This is called distant healing or intercessory prayer. A recent review of the research literature showed that there was a positive effect in over 50% of the studies in distant healing.

Course of Treatment
Prayer is not usually considered a therapeutic approach, but it has been viewed in this context due to scientific research studies showing its benefits. Having a spiritual practice such as prayer is a very personal matter and no specific course of treatment can be prescribed. Rather, each person can develop their own prayer practice. The therapeutic use of prayer can involve praying for one’s health and recovery or praying for another. Unless one already has a prayer practice, it may be helpful for some to set aside certain times of the day to pray. Others may prefer to pray at a time when they feel moved to do so. People can pray alone or with others, such as friends, family, their religious community, or health care professionals etc.

If you have a religious affiliation that you feel close to, prayers can be used from that tradition. You can also develop your own spiritual practice, creating personal prayers that are meaningful to you. If you are an atheist or agnostic, you can use meditative non-religious prayer to simply connect in stillness and reflection to a deeper level of being.

Side Effects
Generally people feel a sense of comfort, connection and well being from prayer. If instead, disturbing thoughts and/or feelings arise you might want to discuss this with your health care professional or a member of the clergy.

Safety Issues
The incorporation of prayer into the delivery of health care has raised several unique issues regarding safety. Questions arise such as should an individual pray for another person without their consent and what if the prayers are not consistent with the individual’s desires or beliefs. It has been suggested that prayers that are open-ended, such as praying for the individual’s highest good or in their best interest, are respectful of each individual and follow the principle of “first do no harm.”

Other Modalities that Work Well with Prayer
Prayer can be seen as a potentially powerful adjunct to any other therapeutic approach, whether complementary or conventional medical therapies. It appears to be effective for people of all ages, genders and cultures.

Finding a Practitioner
National organizations often have practitioner locators on their sites:

American Association of Pastoral Counselors


Content last modified on Aug 6, 2009