Spiritual care

Most people have a part of them that wants to discover meaning and purpose in life. This is often referred to as ‘spirituality’. It influences personal values and beliefs.

For some people, spirituality will involve religious, philosophical or humanist values and beliefs. This may provide support and comfort during difficult times.

The importance of spirituality for health and wellbeing is becoming better understood. It can be an important part of someone’s life. It may also benefit physical and mental health.

Spiritual care needs

Spiritual needs are different for everyone. They can change over time as you face new challenges in life or changes in your health.

Spiritual care needs can include the need:

  • to give and receive love
  • to be understood
  • to be valued as a human being
  • for forgiveness and trust
  • to explore beliefs and values
  • to find meaning, purpose and hope

If you experience illness or loss, you may have questions linked to meaning, purpose or hope.

Many people welcome spiritual care when they have a serious illness or their health is changing or getting worse. This is especially true if you’re:

  • looking for help to cope with illness and treatments
  • dealing with feelings of loss, anxiety, certainty, despair, guilt and anger
  • coming to terms with an illness and searching for meaning
  • facing difficult questions about life and death
  • caring for someone whose health is getting worse
  • coping with loss, grief or other feelings after someone close to you dies

Your own spiritual needs

Looking after your own spiritual needs can include doing activities that help you:

  • reflect on your day-to-day experiences
  • connect to how you’re feeling in a deeper way

Everyone will have different activities that help them the most.

Some people will use lots of different ways to develop spiritually over their lifetime. Others may have a particular thing that they find most helpful.

Ways to look after your own spiritual needs


  • make time to talk to someone you trust about issues that are on your mind
  • go for a walk
  • explore your thoughts and feelings using art, music, drama or writing
  • try meditation techniques
  • spend time reflecting on what’s happening to you, either alone or with others
  • meet others in a relaxed environment to discuss any deeper questions that you want to explore
  • try taking part in the worship and rituals relevant to your faith – like going to church, the mosque or another faith group or meeting

How to find someone to talk to

You may find support from talking to people about how you’re feeling and coping.

The people you talk to may not have the answers you’re looking for but that’s OK. What’s important is that they can listen and take your questions seriously.

Some people may find it helpful to talk to a member of their own belief or faith community. If you have a faith, you may find it’s a source of comfort and support.

Some people may question their faith, beliefs or values when faced with illness. If this is true for you, it can help to talk with someone from your faith or belief community or a healthcare chaplain.

Most faith groups are used to dealing with uncertainty. They are usually happy to talk to you and give you whatever support and comfort they can.

Spiritual care departments

Each health board and hospice in Scotland provides a spiritual care service. This includes healthcare chaplains and sometimes a team of volunteers.

Healthcare chaplains are part of the wider healthcare team. Chaplains provide spiritual care and are trained in listening and responding to the needs of an individual.

They will offer support to people of all faiths and those who hold no particular faith.

Spiritual care teams can also help you to make contact with a representative from a local belief community.

Last updated:
01 May 2024