What does spirituality mean to you? An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experience of spirituality.
Abstract: This study explores how participants experience spirituality, what it means to them and how it affects their lives and relationships. The study reports data from semi-structured interviews with four participants, analysed using IPA. It is suggested that the existential-phenomenological approach can offer a suitable framework for exploring spiritual experiences.

Key words

Spirituality, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), existential psychotherapy
Article Type: Report
Subject: Spirituality (Research)
Psychotherapy (Research)
Phenomenology (Research)
Existential psychology (Research)
Authors: Cassar, Simon
Shinebourne, Pnina
Pub Date: 01/01/2012
Publication: Name: Existential Analysis Publisher: Society for Existential Analysis Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Society for Existential Analysis ISSN: 1752-5616
Issue: Date: Jan, 2012 Source Volume: 23 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United Kingdom Geographic Code: 4EUUK United Kingdom
Accession Number: 288874181
Full Text: Spirituality and religion (1) received little attention in the psychological literature for most of the 20th Century, although a shift in interest has been developing since the 1980s (Aten & Hernandez, 2005; Bartoli, 2007; Crossley & Slater, 2005; Richards & Bergin, 1997; Sperry & Shafranske, 2005). However, as Bartoli (2007) notes, literature from a humanistic-existential perspective (referring for example to Allport, 1950; Frankl, 1975; Fromm, 1950; and Maslow, 1964), considered spiritual beliefs and practices as possible vehicles for reaching higher potential and a deeper sense of meaning. In addition, Bartoli considers the paradigm shift from a positivist to a postmodern epistemology, as well as feminist and multicultural approaches, as significant in developing a more flexible and inclusive understanding of human experience, and an awareness of diversity of subjective experiences of spirituality and religion.

Yet despite the increasing focus on spirituality in the psychological literature, Aten & Hernandez (2005) note that only a small number of empirical publications used a qualitative method, the majority being either quantitative or theoretical. Based on their literature review, Aten & Hernandez suggest that qualitative studies:

Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) is considered a particularly relevant method for this study as it aims to give voice to, and examine, the personal lived experience of participants and how participants make sense of their experience (Smith, 2004). IPA is also interpretative in recognising the role of the researcher in making sense of the experience of participants. In addition IPA is informed by the theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism (Smith, 1996), which is concerned with the construction of meaning within both the social and personal world of individuals. Golsworthy & Coyle (1999, 2001) used IPA to explore spiritual issues in bereavement and the spiritual dimension in bereavement therapy. Mayers, Leavey, Vallianatou & Barker (2007) used IPA in their study of experiences of psychotherapy clients with religious or spiritual beliefs. IPA has been used to examine a wide range of psychological topics. For a review of work using IPA see Brocki & Wearden (2006) and Reid, Flowers & Larkin (2005).


PARTICIPANTS: The first author recruited the participants through a personal contact using snowballing method. Potential participants were first approached by the first author for an informal discussion about the nature of the research. The main inclusion criterion was that participants described themselves as having some sort of spiritual orientation and were willing to talk in depth about their spirituality. Four participants took part in this study: three female and one male participant with an age range from 26 to 42. All had a religious upbringing but had subsequently moved away from organised religion into a more spiritual direction. Participants signed a consent form and their names were changed to protect confidentiality.

As the spiritual orientation of the first author will undoubtedly have affected the interview process, it is worth briefly mentioning his spiritual background. He was brought up in a strict Roman Catholic family, so childhood and teenage years were steeped in Catholic thought. He then went on to look at other spiritual / religious paths with extensive studies in Buddhism, Rosicrucian Mysticism and Spiritual Psychotherapy. During the interviews, the first author attempted to remain client-led to avoid imposing his own beliefs and ideas on the interview process. This included encouraging the participants to elucidate concepts that seemed clear from the first author's background to ensure that assumptions were not being made.

Interviews: IPA provides flexible guidelines which can be adapted by researchers in accordance with their research aims (Smith & Osborn, 2003). The analysis followed several stages: The first stage consisted of reading the written description and the transcript of the first participant a number of times to become immersed in the data. During reading, notes or comments which appear significant or interesting were recorded. The second stage involved returning to the written description and transcript to transform the initial notes into emerging themes or concepts, taking care not to lose the connection between the participant's own words and the researcher's interpretations. The third stage consisted of examining the emerging themes and clustering them together according to conceptual similarities. The clusters were given a descriptive label which conveys the conceptual nature of the themes in each cluster. As the clusters of themes emerged, the written description and the transcript were checked to ensure that the connection with what the participant has actually said was maintained. In the final stage a table of themes was produced. The table shows the structure of major themes and subthemes. This process was repeated for each participant. The tables of themes of all participants were compared and a master table of themes was created (Fig. 1). An audit of the first author's thematic analysis was conducted by the second author, to ensure that the themes identified were warrantable (Streubert, 1994).


Two superordinate themes were identified in the analysis: Focus on Spirituality and Self, and Focus on Spirituality in Relation to Others and the World. A summary of the results is given in Fig.1, below, which describes the Master and the Subthemes that arose from the participants' accounts.

Participants struggled to talk about their spiritual experiences and there seemed to be quite a lot of anxiety in trying to express what they mean by spirituality. This anxiety was implicitly in the room, observable in the way the participants behaved and hesitated with their words. Despite this unease, the participants were able to find a way to talk about their spirituality. The language they used ranged from more traditional religious terminology to mystical definitions. Nevertheless, the theme that featured in all accounts and provided the underlying texture for all other themes, was that of connection. Connection was envisaged on several dimensions, connecting with self, connecting with others and connecting with 'the unknown'.

Focus on spirituality and self

Spirituality as an internal force: Spirituality is only your world inside you, and you discover yourself, discover your experience, your accumulated knowledge from your past lives, and you develop yourself for the future and for your next step in this present life, through connection through spiritual moments.

We introduce the analysis with an excerpt from Mary that presents spirituality as an internal force imminent in individual experience. Once discovered, it serves as a basis for self-development and connection to spiritual moments. Similarly, Peter and Susan perceived spirituality as an internal force, a part of our make-up as human beings:

Peter: ' [spirituality] It's just part of who you are'

Susan: 'Spirituality is what you have inside you'

Although this was not always explicitly stated, there seemed to be a need for all participants to continue developing their spirituality, typically expressed by Mary:

Mary: 'I think I need to develop myself spiritually and it will affect my life more than now ... I'd like to meditate more and develop my skills, and to know more about how to be wise. The process of spiritual development seems to generate further spiritual growth:

Rebecca: 'It's sort of exponential. The more you do ... The deeper you let him [God] go, the more he does and then you let him do more and ... it starts off as a trickle and gets bigger.

To connect with this internal force, the participants felt they needed to quieten their minds and just experience what happens from then on. This experience that occurred was perceived as a guiding force that led them to lead a better life, which was experienced as either the voice of God, or their own inner wisdom. The quietening of the mind seems to be the key process that all participants described in some way. Letting the thoughts die down seemed to be the process through which a spiritual experience happens that provides insight and direction in life. This quietening was achieved through praying, meditation, listening to music, writing or even just allowing oneself to fall asleep. Allowing this internal force to manifest itself in one's life is seen as the first step on a journey of self-development and self discovery, as expressed in the excerpt from Mary above, and by Peter:

Peter: 'We normally just put some quiet music on and sit quietly and then of course that's the time when you start thinking about all the things that you haven't had time to think about because you've been too busy. So you need to spend a good hour at it just to quieten your mind and open your heart up to let God do what he wants to do ... Quieten your mind. And that often involves just snoring!'

Spirituality as a process: The process of spirituality was experienced as a life journey that unfolds and grows with the person. Spirituality was not seen as something that one has or achieves, but more like a path that a person walks that leads and guides his/her life:

Rebecca: 'There's something about spirituality that unfolds. It's not that you have it all. You don't arrive as a fully formed spiritual person. It develops perhaps, rather than pursuing.'

Peter: 'Over the last few years I've discovered that actually it's a journey, and you never actually "get it"'.

The participants perceived the spiritual journey as a journey of self-development that made them better people and their lives improved because of this. The life improvements were experienced as coming from insights gained during periods of spiritual connection that provide guidance on ways of being and acting:

Susan: 'Spirituality makes me the person I am. It makes me to realise, to reflect on human beings, and rule the way I see the world around me.[spirituality] is a level of feeling of how things should be. spirituality is more like a code of unspoken or unwritten laws if you see it that way, the laws of existence.'

Mary: 'By helping me to develop myself and to live my life better than I used to live before ... When I am alone during meditation it comes absolutely suddenly and I'm sure it's the right solution. I'm always sure it's right.'

Peter: 'It helps me to know what to do and what not to do, or directs my life.'

Not all participants experienced spiritual insights as an intuitive experience, however. For Rebecca, it was the voice of God giving direction and answers to questions:

Rebecca: 'I sit down and I talk to God and write things in my book either what I'm feeling or what I hear him say to me, I write it down.' Rebecca described how guidance and the feeling of connection that spirituality provided gave her a sense of meaning, a life purpose. She felt that her spirituality was the purpose of her life, and the by-product of that was self-discovery:

Rebecca: It gives you a sense of there is a reason why I'm here and why I'm doing what I'm doing ... I'm here in order to get to know God, and have a meaningful relationship with him. That would be what I would see as where I'm aiming for. And in that you discover who you are.'

Conflicts in the process of spirituality: The feeling of connection, guidance and purpose that spirituality provides was also seen as a cause of conflict. The conflict seemed to arise when the spiritual direction didn't fit with the physical desires of the body, or with the expression of what were perceived as the more base emotions.

Peter: 'I'm not consciously saying, my physical body wants to do this but my spiritual body wants to do that. I'm trying to just listen to the spiritual side of me and if that fits in with the physical side that's good, and if it doesn't then there's a conflict. '

Mary: 'When I was a teenager, I didn't know about spirituality and I followed my instincts, my animal instincts--aggression, anger, natural instincts from nature. It didn't help me at all with connection with people. It made me think 'what's wrong with me?' I started to think more about it and came to the way of self development, of exploring myself and that's why I discovered spirituality. And now I'd like to follow spiritual laws. Not laws, I'd like to use my spiritual skill with connection with people. It makes everyone happy.

Focus on spirituality in relation to others and the world

Spirituality in relation to others on a personal level: Relationships with others were a major part of the participants' experience of spirituality. Part of living life spiritually was seen as respecting others and maintaining a positive, healthy connection with them. This was primarily achieved by seeing people in a different light and following spiritual principles and seeing the best in others:

Susan: 'I'm trying to be ruled by the slogan "don't cause upset, try not to cause upset in other people", because I think it's wrong.' Peter: 'Without making excuses for people, you try to, or choose to, see the best in them rather than the worst in them. If you keep looking for the worst in people then you will conflict with them. But if you try to look for the best in them you will view them differently.'

The outcome of relating to people from a spiritual perspective was that relationships became more harmonious and the participants felt that there was a deeper connection of a different level--a connection of the heart, or of 'spirit'. This was perceived very strongly when they connected with others who also acknowledged their own spirituality:

Mary: 'It makes our relationship more smooth. Without interference, quiet, calm.'

Rebecca: 'You might only meet them for five minutes, but you feel like there is a real connection with them, like you've known them forever. And actually you haven't at all, but there's something in your spirit that recognises something in their spirit and there's this connection. So in that way you can have very deep relationships with people very quickly ... which is like for eternity.'

This connection was also very noticeable when it was missing when relating to others. The participants felt that when this connection wasn't there, relationships became artificial and superficial, typically expressed by Peter:

Peter: 'The problem is that if people don't, or aren't happy, or aren't willing to talk to you about what is real to you [spirituality] then you can't have a proper relationship with them, can you? It's all artificial and superficial.'

Another aspect of spirituality when relating to others was that of sharing the spiritual journey. Participants felt that when they got together in groups and shared their experiences it enhanced their own experience of spirituality. Also, 'giving away' spiritual revelations allowed more revelations to come. The whole act of sharing in a group seemed to be paramount to the spiritual journey on a self-development level understanding more about yourself and increasing your own understanding of spirituality--and also in increasing spirituality itself:

Peter: 'From my experience the more I talk about and share my spiritual journey with people who want to know about it--so I'm giving away the more I receive back. So it allows ... instead of being a stagnant pool it allows a life flow.'

Rebecca: 'If you go to house group we might discuss something which helps you understand what you think yourself. But it also helps you understand what other people think about things and it might make you look at things differently.'

Mary: 'I can meditate, but I can't do the practise that I really need now. because it should be with a teacher in a group of people.'

However, striving to connect with others on a spiritual level was also perceived as a source of potential conflict. Sometimes it appeared necessary to abandon spiritual perspective for self-protection:

Susan: 'I must say when I'm in my office I cannot judge those people by spirituality. Because if I have a spiritual approach to them they would just wipe their feet on me ... You have to find the balance between spiritual and kind to others and protecting yourself.'

Participants found that even in close relationships with family and friends, spirituality is not a subject that people were comfortable talking about. Indeed, there seemed to be a taboo in talking about spirituality that prevents the subject arising and negates the possibility of the close relationships that it could enable:

Susan: 'It's not the thing that you talk to your family about. Or your friends. I know for sure that none of my friends have ever spoken about spirituality, and I've never spoken to them about it. It's just not in our culture.'

Mary: 'My mum is really glad and supportive about my spiritual way, and she follows me in my spiritual path. Other members of my family don't really understand--they're still thinking about it ... the others will listen to my stories and admire them, but they won't do anything about it themselves. It's like watching a movie--you're still behind a screen and passive.'

Other participants found that when they expressed their spiritual leanings the reaction was almost hostile. The typical response was either a refusal to speak about the subject, or of people thinking that they are mad. This type of response caused some worries that they might be isolating themselves because of their spiritual beliefs:

Rebecca: 'I think if I sat down and discussed my beliefs with "society at large" they might think I was a bit wacky'.

Peter: 'Some people just go totally into denial ... "we don't talk about that" ... Some are Christians and aren't walking a similar path and think that we are mad ... "What on earth would you want to do that for?"' Rebecca: 'I hope that we don't ostracise people, or make them feel uncomfortable around us because of who we are or what we are pursuing. '

Because of these difficulties in expressing their spirituality to their friends, some participants felt that they had to split their friends into groups--those who they could be spiritual with and have deep relationships with, and those who they couldn't talk to about their spirituality and hence had superficial relationships with.

Spirituality in relation to the world and society: The problem of relating to others with respect to spirituality, which is difficult enough with friends and family, gets further exacerbated when trying to relate to others beyond that circle, and to the world at large. The participants felt that society is set up in a materialistic way that leaves very little space for people to express their spirituality:

Susan: 'Probably I will sound sad and disappointed. I think this society is materialistic, most of it. And it's very violent.'

Rebecca: 'I think society at large generally ignores people's spiritual thoughts and leanings as long as they don't affect them.'

Mary: 'People live life without spirituality. And they made this world full of this daily routine which is full of what you need to do, and it doesn't have any space for spirituality.'

Susan: 'Ideas of spirituality are--how to put it mildly--they are the furthest away from them. They constantly think of how to promote themselves, how to reach a better level, how to get something better than they have at the moment.'

There was a general sense that living without spirituality, as they perceived the case to be for most people, was detrimental to society itself and to nature. The lack of connection with self and others, and having a self-centred viewpoint was perceived as destructive for everyone. Participants felt isolated and of not being accepted by society because of their spiritual ideals. Yet, despite feeling on the edge of society because of their spirituality, the participants viewed it as a stage of life. They saw the possibility that at some point other people would 'wake-up' to the realm of spirituality when the time was right for them to embark on this path:

Peter: 'A lot of people don't want to know. But that's only because they've not got to a place where they're ready to be woken up.'

Mary: 'Society is not so developed. I think maybe in 100 years, maybe less, in 50 years, people will look inside themselves to see what is going on.'

Peter: 'I'd like to think that if introduced correctly to their spiritual side, then most people would want to embrace it but I kind of, I think I know, that most people are too wrapped up in their own little worlds to actually consider anything other than their physical needs. Which is a shame because there's so much more.'


First author: Exploring spirituality with the participants was a moving experience as it involved intimate conversations that resonated with my own experiences of the spiritual dimension. Bracketing out my own experiences and staying with the client's material, while being an everyday part in my professional work as a psychotherapist, was more difficult when I was in the role of researcher exploring a topic that has profound significance in my own life. This was achieved by adopting an open and questioning stance and staying with the participants' material. The experience has facilitated a deeper understanding of my own spirituality and how this influences my interactions with others. Second author: As a researcher and a psychotherapist my main interest in this research was in exploring the issues and anxieties arising in addressing spiritual issues in psychotherapy. For me, the phenomenological perspective of existential therapy provides an approach for working with clients without assuming an a priori meaning of spirituality. Qualitative research using IPA is congruent with my personal beliefs and values with regards to the relationship between researcher, participants and the process of research.


The process of spiritual development as described by participants seems to follow a similar trajectory to Kierkegaard's (1992, 2005) conception of the three spheres of human existence, the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious. All participants stated that their spiritual practice evolved from personal development that enabled them to develop themselves to become 'better' people. Their self-development came about firstly from living according to ideals and morals about how to be in this world and how to relate to others. This could be seen as corresponding to Kierkegaard's living in the Ethical Sphere. However, the ethical practice, although important, was not the main part of the self-development or the reason for having a spiritual practise. For all the participants, the prime reason for their spiritual life was the spiritual connection itself. It was this that gave them the sense of peace and connectedness, and helped them in their struggles in applying their philosophical principles to their everyday lives. This can be analogous to Kierkegaard's Religious Sphere. This spiritual connection is an entirely personal, subjective experience, which is a felt sense rather than an intellectual experience. This could be described as a numinous experience, which people throughout the ages have tried to describe, for example in Otto, 1958, quoted in Lines, 2006:

The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its 'profane', non-religious mood of everyday experience.

(Lines, 2006: p37)

The themes that emerged from the analysis of the transcripts bear considerable similarities to the psychotherapeutic process. For example, the notion of connection that was significant in all participants' accounts is also a key part of therapy. Connecting with oneself is of primary importance in therapy, without which therapy couldn't take place. Connecting with others, a key feature in all participants' spiritual experience, is also of key importance in the therapeutic encounter between client and therapist. In addition, connecting with others is one of the main issues brought by most clients in one form or another. Participants described how they used spirituality as a self-development tool that helped them relate to others in a more positive manner. This was done by trying to employ a spiritual philosophy when relating to others that tempered their basic emotional response to situations. In this way, they are attempting to transcend their immediate response and see the situation from a broader, more encompassing perspective. Although this could also be an aspect of therapy, in encouraging clients to explore alternative possibilities in situations, a part of therapeutic work is also to encourage clients to find ways of expressing their emotional responses, rather than holding them back. Another feature which could be seen to parallel the therapeutic hour is the process of connecting spiritually, described by participants as a type of meditative practice where they let the thoughts of everyday life die away, so they could start to perceive what is going on beneath this. Similarly, the therapeutic session can be partly a period of contemplation and reflection. Therapists provide a safe space where the 'outside world' is kept at bay, opening up a space in which it may be possible for other thoughts and feelings to come to the surface. However there is also a clear difference. In the therapeutic hour therapists are attempting to help clients connect with themselves, with the therapist and with others in their world. In the meditative practice described by the participants, they are trying to find ways to connect to something transcendental that gives them guidance and helps them to have a more fulfilling life.

Recent research and clinical literature (Knox, Catlin, Casper & Schlosser, 2005; Lines, 2006; Rose, Westefeld, & Ansley, 2001; Sperry, 2003) suggest that psychotherapy is attracting clients seeking to address spiritual issues that have traditionally been addressed by institutions of religion. Lines (2006: p3) believes that 'the therapist replaced the priest as "father-confessor" but without ceremony and without reference to the sacred'. However, despite the increasing focus on spirituality in the psychological literature noted above, research continues to highlight concerns and anxieties relating to issues of spirituality in psychotherapy, expressed both by therapists and clients (Bartoli, 2007; Crossley & Slater, 2005; Knox et al 2005; Mayers et al, 2007; Rose et al, 2001). For example, therapists may be ambivalent about talking about spirituality in therapy because of fears of imposing their own values on clients. Clients may not bring spiritual concerns to their therapy sessions for fear that they would be pathologised, and therefore needed to censor what they revealed to their therapist. The spiritual aspect may then become split off and hidden, with no route for expression (Crossley & Slater, 2005).

It has been suggested that one way to address this issue is by including spirituality in the training of therapists (Bartoli, 2007; Crossley & Slater, 2005; Richards & Bergin, 1997; Zinnbauer & Pargament, 2000). For example Bartoli (2007) suggests that therapists should examine their own ideas on spirituality as derived from their training and professional environments, their own spiritual experiences or backgrounds (or lack of) and their views of mental health with regards to spirituality (see Hill & Pargament, 2003). Beyond issues of training, West asserts that in order to work effectively with spiritual issues, therapists need to develop their own spirituality: 'Indeed, I would argue that to work at a spiritual depth with a client requires the therapist to practise their own spiritual discipline' (West, 2004: p145). Furthermore, West suggests specific interventions that could be used, for example prayer, discussing theological concepts and making reference to scriptures, and self-disclosing spiritual beliefs or experiences. West's argument presents some problems. Firstly, there is an assumption here that therapists need to have personal experience of a phenomenon (in this case spiritual practice) in order to be able to work in depth with clients affected/impacted by the same phenomenon. There are conflicting views on this issue, for example in working with clients with problems of addiction (Doyle, 1997; Hollander, Bauer, Herlihy & McCullum, 2006; vannicelli, 2001). Second, using prayer and theological concepts and scriptures presuppose a shared faith or religious denomination. These types of interventions can be seen as being more in line with spiritual direction or pastoral counselling than with psychotherapy (Sperry, 2003). While spiritual directors may not be trained in psychotherapy, Sperry believes that a spiritually oriented psychotherapist could take on a dual role of psychotherapist and spiritual director. In contrast, Gerald May (1992), a psychiatrist and a spiritual director, advocated keeping the two functions separate. In his view, despite significant overlaps, it is important to keep the distinction, as psychology cannot give direction on questions of why we exist or how we should use our lives.

In van Deurzen's (2002) model of the four dimensions of existence, the spiritual dimension refers to explorations of beliefs and values which may be motivated by a desire to make sense of why and how one should live one's life. However, the existential approach to therapy does not assume that the spiritual dimension involves transcendental experiences, although this may be the case for some. Furthermore, in van Deurzen's framework, all four dimensions of human experience are interlinked. Exploring the spiritual dimension may be invigorating explorations and opening up new perspectives in the social, personal or physical dimensions. Although, as Golsworthy & Coyle maintain, 'many psychotherapeutic systems lack a conceptual framework within which to address religious or spiritual issues' (2001: p183), the phenomenological perspective of the existential approach is open to exploration of the meaning of the experience to the person without assuming an a priori meaning of spirituality. Milton, Charles, Judd, O'Brien, Tipney & Turner (2003) believe that a client's distress may be best understood and therapeutically addressed through integrating and exploring the phenomenology of their experience within the framework of the four dimensions of existence. They suggest that the existential-phenomenological approach can offer a meta-model of human existence with a potential to augment and deepen narrower epistemological frameworks.


The findings of this study bring to light participants' desire to explore and develop their spiritual experience and sense of spiritual connectedness. At the same time there was a sense of isolation and anxiety about encountering a hostile reaction when expressing spirituality outside their circle of trusted 'spiritual' friends. These experiences correspond to experiences of clients seeking to address spiritual issues in psychotherapy and the anxieties of therapists about addressing such issues. Including issues of spirituality in the training of therapists may be one way to enable therapists to be open to being in dialogue with clients about their spiritual experiences and desires. Issues of spirituality evoke a consideration of therapists' worldviews and the extent to which psychotherapy and spirituality can be brought together. It is suggested that the existential-phenomenological approach can offer a suitable framework for exploring spiritual experience as its phenomenological perspective is open to exploration of the meaning of the experience to the person, without assuming an a priori meaning of spirituality.

This was a relatively small research project, and is therefore limited by the sample size and also the lack of diversity in spiritual orientation. Further research is needed to fully understand the implications of the interface between spiritual and psychotherapy. The first author is currently undertaking a research project as part of a professional doctorate in psychotherapy that investigates the impact of therapists' spirituality on their clinical work.


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(1) The term spirituality has been described as distinct from religion (for example, by Rose, Westefeld & Ansley, 2001) as indicating beliefs, experiences, and practices involving the individual's relationship with a higher being or the universe, and religion as denoting allegiance to the beliefs and practices of institutional, organized religion.

Simon Cassar is Head of Counselling and Psychological Services at the University of Glasgow. His research interests include spirituality and psychotherapy, integral perspectives on wellbeing and evolution of consciousness.

Contact: Counselling and Psychological Services, University of Glasgow, 65 Southpark Avenue, Glasgow G12 8LE

Email: simon.cassar@glasgow.ac.uk

Pnina Shinebourne is a senior lecturer at Middlesex University and honorary research fellow at Birkbeck University. Her publications include the topics of addiction and recovery, IPA and pluralism in qualitative research.

Contact: Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1 7HX

Email: p.shinebourne@bbk.ac.uk
... help researchers to gain a better understanding of how
   participants make meaning in their lives and how this impacts
   spiritual well-being. This is particularly useful since religious
   and spiritual experience is often highly individualistic and
   personal (ibid, p274).

Fig. 1

MASTER THEMES                       SUB THEMES

Focus on Spirituality and Self      Spirituality as an internal
                                    Spirituality as a process
                                    Conflicts in the process of
Focus on Spirituality in            Spirituality in relation to
Relation to Others and the World    others on a personal level
                                    Spirituality in relation to the
                                    world and society
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