The unit explores the nature of mental illness, in particular, the spiritual dimension of mental illness and the nature of spiritual care. The issues raised will be critically examined in order to develop an understanding of the inherent dignity of the individual living with a mental illness and how they find meaning and purpose within this context. Through reflection, case study and group interaction the unit aims to increase participants’ working knowledge of current issues and integrate approaches to mental health and spirituality within practice. The unit provides an alternative pastoral view to the current medical paradigm that is consistent with spiritual care and healthcare practice. The course will develop skills in assessing the spiritual needs of the person through the listening process and then enable reflection on an appropriate pastoral response. A critical familiarity with current thought and research in this field is explored throughout the unit and there will be a special focus on critical responses to the publication of DSM 5.

Unit code: DP9025S

Unit status: Approved (Major revision)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Pastoral Theology and Ministry Studies

Proposing College: Stirling College

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Learning outcomes


Demonstrate a holistic awareness of the relationship between spirituality and mental health and an awareness of the spiritual and religious needs of people living with mental illness;


Evaluate an understanding of the impact of the illness on all aspects of the person’s life within a family and societal context, particularly the impact of stigma, guilt, shame, abuse, loss of identity and disenfranchised grief


Critically discuss a theological and spiritual rationale for the pastoral care of people with mental health issues;


Demonstrate a pastoral awareness of the ethical issues, responsibilities and boundary-setting criteria necessary for those working in the mental health field (including referral skills and multidisciplinary and interfaith sensitivity);


Integrate practical theological reflection with contemporary research that engages with the practice paradigm that drives mental health policy and treatment in Australia.

Unit sequence

One foundational unit in Pastoral Theology and Ministry Studies


As the emphasis is on active participation, interaction and discussion, teaching methods will offer: lecturer input, group discussion and reflection, leading guided imagery, supervised role playing, guiding responses to stories, exploration of poems and music and the of the use of related resources and activities.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Clarke, I. Psychosis and Spirituality: Exploring the New Frontier. London: Whurr Publishers, 2001.
  • Cobb, M, Puchalski, C. & Rumbold, B. (eds), Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Gardner, F. Critical Spirituality: A Holistic Approach to Contemporary Practice. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011
  • Gordon, T., Kelly, E., Mitchell, D. Spiritual Care for Healthcare Professionals: Reflecting on Clinical Practice. London: Radcliffe, 2011.
  • Kelleher, R. A Voice at the Table: An Integrated Model for Pastoral Care in Aged Mental Health. Mulgrave: John Garrett Publishing, 2011
  • Koenig, H. Faith and Mental Health: Religious Resources for Healing. Philadelphia,PA: Templeton, 2005
  • Louw, D., Ito, T. and Elsdorfer, U. Encounter in Pastoral Care and Spiritual Healing: Towards and Integrative and Intercultural Approach, Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2012
  • McSherry, W., & Ross, L. (eds) (2010). Spiritual assessment in healthcare practice. Keswick, M&K Publishing
  • Roberts, S. (ed.) Professional, Spiritual and Pastoral Care: A Practical Clergy and Chaplain's Handbook, Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2012
  • Swinton, John. Spirituality and Mental Health Care: Rediscovering a ‘Forgotten’ Dimension Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2001
  • Vanier, J. Seeing Beyond Depression, London: Harper Collins, 2001


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Essay 3500 words

3500 50.0
Case Study

Case Study 3500 words

3500 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 26 Sep, 2019

Unit record last updated: 2021-06-07 08:43:49 +1000