Taking a Religious History

Until recently, healthcare providers have not been trained to ask patients about their religious and spiritual beliefs. Ignoring this area of a person’s life can mean neglecting a powerful resource a person possesses to foster their healing or overlooking an area of conflict that inhibits healing. This is particularly true in the case of mental illness.

For more than twenty years, Dr. Kehoe has been training healthcare providers to address the religious and spiritual needs of patients. Because of their lack of training, healthcare providers have not had a language and an approach which would enable them to comfortably explore this area of a person’s life. Dr. Kehoe developed a Religious History Assessment tool which is quite comprehensive.

Some of the questions that she suggests are the following:

  • “Were you raised in a religious tradition? If so, which one?”
  • If the person says no, ask – “Were you ever in a religious tradition?” Asking this question is important because the reasons for leaving a tradition can be important clinical information?
  • “What does your current involvement consist of? “
  • “Do you have a spiritual practice that you engage in that helps you?”
  • “Would you describe that for me?”

These questions offer the clinician an opportunity to learn about a resource the patient has or an area of potential conflict.

One of the most informative questions on the tool is: “What are the religious or spiritual messages that you learned growing up?” Exploring the family’s involvement can also be extremely informative.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the questionnaire, please contact Dr. Kehoe.

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