Just like everyone has emotions — though some like to talk about them and some don’t — everyone is spiritual, says David Derezotes.
And helping people tap into their desire for connection and meaning can improve their health, adds the licensed clinical social worker and University of Utah professor.
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The conference will be held Friday and Saturday at the U. Guest House Conference Center, 110 S. Fort Douglas Blvd.
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The time to bring up spirituality may be most obvious when a patient faces death. But it works at other times, too, he says: During pregnancy, asking parents what it means to them to have a child. If patients have low energy, asking how they make sense of having less of it and what they would do if they had more.
"There’s a growing literature … that clearly shows there’s a relationship between spirituality, religiosity and physical health," said Derezotes, who will be speaking Friday to health professionals and students about spiritual health and how professionals can promote it.
He is one of several speakers at a U. Integrative Health Conference, which aims to promote health by addressing the body, mind, spirit and ecosystem.
The two-day conference, sponsored by the U. department of health promotion and education, includes speakers from the medical school and therapists in private practice. It is aimed at doctors, nurses, psychologists, chiropractors, therapists, nutritionists and students, as well as the general public.
Topics range from music therapy, tai chi and meditation to positive psychology, hypnosis and dietary supplements for diabetes. It focuses on evidence-based care.
"In one sense we’re expanding the whole continuum of health care to include fortifying people so they don’t have to go to the doctor as much, and also they begin to adopt some of the behaviors that will keep them out [of the doctor’s office]," said Glenn Richardson, professor in the U.’s department of health promotion and education and conference organizer.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, of the National Institutes of Health, says 38 percent of American adults use complementary medicine, which includes acupuncture, herbs, energy-healing therapies and more.
Part of the goal of the conference is to help health professionals move beyond the well-known and ignored admonishment to patients to eat right and exercise and instead find new ways to motivate them to adopt healthier lifestyles.
Richardson said it’s about discovering what drives people. Helping others could lead to raking leaves for a neighbor, which is aerobic, he points out.
Finding meaning in life may be a good motivator, notes Derezotes. While not every health care provider may feel comfortable talking about spirituality, he hopes they will include it when they assess their patient.
"In all the medical care you forget about the soul care," he said. "What if we humanize our health care programs so we recognize that people are not just their physical body?"
Some health care providers say they must offer complementary medicine because patients demand it. Primary Children’s Medical Center added Pediatric Integrative Medicine consultation services in 2010 and has already treated 400 children, mainly for pain, anxiety and insomnia, said its director Lynn Gershan, who is also speaking at the conference.
She offers everything from essential oils to treat nausea to acupuncture to treat pain.
"Empowering a child to play a role in their own healing… once you see what happens when a child has that feeling, it is unbelievable."
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