Content of Spiritual Counselling for Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy in Iran: A Qualitative Content Analysis

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Spiritual Health Research Center, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

2 Office of Islamic Studies in Mental Health, School of Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

3 Health Management and Economics Research Center, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

4 Department of Health Services Management, School of Health Management and Information Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

5 Department of Hematology and Oncology, Hazrat Rasool-e Akram Hospital, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

6 Cancer Pharmacogenetics Research Group (CPGRG), Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

7 Iran Psychiatric Hospital, Iran University of Medical Science, Tehran, Iran.


Background: Cancer is one of the leading causes of human death. Besides clinical treatment, cancer patients may need emotional and spiritual counselling to overcome their mental and morale problems. Such counselling sessions have been reported influential by many patients. We aimed to explore the structure of spiritual counselling sessions and their content as one of services provided to patients who experience chemotherapy in Iranian hospitals. Methods: Through a qualitative content analysis study, we recorded the discussions between a counsellor, who was a cleric as well, and cancer cases who were undergoing chemotherapy in a hospital in Tehran. The sessions were only recorded if the patient consented to attend at the study. All consideration were taken to avoid release of patients’ identity. The recorded discussions were transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically after each session, until no new theme was emerged. Result: Twenty two sessions were held. The patients aged 53 years old on average. The content of discussions were analyzed along which 165 codes emerged. Four general themes or phases were recognized through counseling as (i) history-Taking (including demographic, disease-related and spiritual history and characteristics), (ii) general advice, (iii) spiritual-religious advice, and (iv) dealing with patients’ spiritual or religious ambiguities and paradoxes. Conclusion: Counselling of cancer patients needs special and in depth knowledge on spiritual and religious issues. The counsellor should be able to motivate patients, among whom many are disappointed, to follow the curative instructions well and stay hopeful about their treatment and life. Exploring and understanding what happens during a spiritual counselling session can counselling to the conformity and standardization of such interventions.


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