Spiritually and religiously oriented health interventions

Alex H.S. Harris, Carl E. Thoresen, Michael E. McCullough, David B. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Controlled intervention studies offer considerable promise to better understand relationships and possible mechanisms between spiritual and religious factors and health. Studies examining spiritually augmented cognitive-behavioral therapies, forgiveness interventions, different meditation approaches, 12-step fellowships, and prayer have provided some evidence, albeit modest, of efficacy in improving health under specific conditions. Researchers need to describe spiritual and religious factors more clearly and precisely, as well as demonstrate that such factors independently influence treatment efficacy. Inclusion of potential moderating and mediating variables (e.g. extent of religious commitment, intrinsic religiousness, specific religious coping strategy) in intervention designs could help explain relationships and outcomes. Using a varity of research designs (e.g. randomized clinical trials, single-subject experimental designs) and assessment methods (e.g. daily self-monitoring, ambulatory physiological measures, in-depth structured interviews) would avoid current limitations of short-term studies using only questionnaires.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-433
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Health Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Health
  • Intervention
  • Mediating
  • Moderating
  • Research designs
  • Spirituality
  • Variables

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Clinical Psychology


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