Locating spirituality in Occupational Therapy and Social Work clinical practice with children: A scoping review

Miss Phoebe Chaytor1, Mrs Brooke Crossley1, Miss Abbey Richards1, Ms Rebekah Ravensdale1, Dr Rebecca Waters1, Dr Megan Hatfield1

1Curtin University, Perth, Australia

Spirituality is a core component of occupational therapy (OT) and social work (SW) models and frameworks. However, very little is currently known about spirituality in the paediatric setting. Evidence indicates that children have their own spiritual world that they use to form meaning and purpose, leading to improved health and well-being. However, current OT and SW intervention typically focuses on addressing physical, emotional and neurological needs.

This scoping review aimed to identify current evidence relating to spirituality in paediatric OT and SW clinical practice.

Five online databases were searched to identify articles that met the following criteria: (i) participants were children or adolescents (0-18 years), (ii) they related to spirituality in an OT or SW clinical setting and, (iii) published in English. Two reviewers independently assessed the quality of each study using the Standard Quality Assessment Criteria for Evaluating Primary Research Papers.

Seven articles met criteria, quantitative (n=4) and qualitative (n=3). The quality of the studies ranged from limited to very strong. One was related to OT, and six were related to SW. Three studies explored the use of spiritual interventions, and findings indicated these improved health and wellbeing. The remaining four studies explored SWs perception of spirituality in clinical work with children. Findings indicated SWs believed spirituality was important, but barriers to embedding it in practice include lack of training and concern about presenting own biases. There were cultural differences between respondents. It was also discussed that the spiritual needs of children differ from adults.


Rebekah Ravensdale is a final year Masters Occupational Therapy student at Curtin University who is eager to get into the workforce and implement the OT principles to optimise the wellbeing of others.

Megan Hatfield is a Lecturer at Curtin University in the School of Allied Health. Megan’s research focuses on supporting children with disabilities, paediatric occupational therapy practice and spirituality in children. She developed the Better OutcOmes & Successful Transition for Autism (BOOST-A), an online program that empowers adolescents’ with autism to be successful in the transition out of high school. Megan is a registered Occupational Therapist, and Unit Coordinates the Paediatrics Units in the Undergraduate and Masters Occupational Therapy Courses. She has previously worked in the disability sector, supporting children with disabilities to participate in home, community and school environments.

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