The Patrick and Anthony Wright Formation and Education Fund has pleasure in announcing the following successful applications in the 2018 round of funding.
Royal Perth Medical Centre and Murdoch University
Spiritual Direction Modalities as the Foundation for a Nurses’ Wellbeing Program in an Urban Tertiary Health Care Organisation
Detailed description of project:
Spirituality is at the heart of wellbeing. Spiritual direction has long been used as a means of discernment and enhancing the spiritual wellbeing of individuals and groups within different religious and spiritual traditions. This research project aims to take spiritual direction across the sacred-secular divide. The proposal is to develop a wellbeing program for nurses in which a form of group spiritual direction is embedded.
In 2016, responding to the national suicide epidemic among young physicians, the pastoral care leaders at Royal Perth Hospital created a comprehensive wellbeing program for first year medical interns (junior medical officers, or JMOs). In 2018, a research project to evaluate the effectiveness of the program was conducted. Volunteers for the project were sought and more than 80% of the JMO cohort responded. Objective wellbeing data was collected through the use of a validated physiological monitoring device (Actigraph); subjective wellbeing data was collected through regularly scheduled questionnaires and self-reports. Pastoral care, clinical pastoral education and spiritual direction practices and techniques were used to facilitate peer groups and spiritual reflection. As the Doctor’s Wellbeing Program quickly achieved success and visibility, nurses at Royal Perth Hospital requested that a similar program be developed for them.
The proposed Nursing Wellbeing Program aims to involve 30-50 nurses from emergency care over a period of eight months. Volunteers will be sought and like the JMOs, these nurses will wear an actigraph, complete wellbeing self-reports and participate in fortnightly peer groups facilitated by a trained Spiritual Director. A control group of nurses will wear an actigraph and complete a wellbeing self-reports but will not participate in the group processes.
This project envisions hiring a spiritual director who will model, teach and supervise the process of spiritual reflection that was developed in the JMO wellbeing program. The spiritual director will conduct these sessions in collaboration with the Director of Clinical Pastoral Education and the Doctors’ Wellbeing Officer at Royal Perth Hospital. A research assistant will also be employed to analyse the results from the two groups to test the hypothesis that participation in group spiritual reflection sessions will improve nurses’ wellbeing and the quality of care that they offer to patients.
A pilot project of 30-50 nurses over eight months will allow us to become familiar with the particular culture and needs of nurses so that when the time comes to train future leaders for the expansion of the program, it will be a well-informed endeavour.
The edited publication of Australian doctoral research in spiritual direction which will benefit directors and students in their practice and thought
Detailed description of project:
WellSpring has identified that the invaluable knowledge generated by Australian scholars of spiritual direction is not localised nor easily accessible for those in everyday practice. This issue extends to students who would benefit from exposure to academic research during their formation.
WellSpring also recognises that formation programs offering awards at Masters level are required to have lecturers with relevant post-doctoral qualifications. This compels the spiritual direction community to advocate for entry into post-doctoral work.
Our goal is to produce a dynamic resource which inspires, validates and strengthens current spiritual direction formation and encourages further Australian research in the field of spiritual direction.
To achieve this we propose the edited publication of scholarly research papers based on existing doctoral works. Scholars would be invited to submit papers which meet the Guiding Principles of this Fund with the aim of extending, challenging and even destabilising current thought and practice. Papers should be written in a manner which excites spiritual directors in their practice and inspires further post graduate and doctoral research in the area of their passion.
The grant will fund an initial edited publication, the sales of which would support further publications at regular intervals. This will create a strong and sustainable model for publishing contemporary Australian research which connects with the everyday practice of spiritual direction. It will provide an accessible source of knowledge for communication through formation programs, research and professional development forums.
Furthermore, the publication will encourage spiritual directors to undertake doctoral research by identifying gaps in current research, and highlighting areas of interest for potential candidates. This work will strengthen the credibility of spiritual direction research in the wider academic field and provide a comprehensive resource for the dissemination of learning in academic and experiential settings.
Catholic Theological College (Confluence)
Spiritual Direction and Sustained Practice: Generating a Methodology for Spiritual Direction in the Light of Contemplative Science
Detailed description of project:
Spiritual direction is well known to every major faith. It is considered to be essential for building a sustained meditation practice in individuals and for building a culture of meditation in communities. However, research in spiritual direction has not yet contributed to the growing field of meditation studies known as ‘Contemplative Science’, which has clearly demonstrated the value of meditative techniques for improving mental and physical wellbeing, as well as for alleviating suffering. Typically, the focus in contemplative science remains on the individual practitioner alone and not on the broader contexts that facilitate meditative practice such as the spiritual director or mentor.
Recent studies in contemplative science have, indeed, begun expanding their scope to include some of the meditation practices associated with the major faiths and have examined some of the structures and persons that support these practices. However, there have been few systematic examinations of the role played by the teacher or spiritual director. This is a significant lacuna.
Our proposal is to establish a dialogue between established meditation researchers and spiritual directors, and to develop a methodology for testing the following hypothesis: that spiritual directors play an essential role in sustaining individual long-term meditative practice and in generating a meditative culture within a community. Various frameworks such as ‘Theological Action Research’ would be useful for this investigation.
We propose that the Wright Foundation partner with the University of Divinity and Confluence to fund a PhD candidate to research the role of spiritual direction as described. We propose that the funds be used to support the first year of study which would examine the nexus between contemporary meditation studies and the theory and practice of spiritual direction. The researcher will generate a methodology that examines the different approaches in contemplative science and proposes how spiritual direction can contribute to this intersection. This methodology will form the core of the PhD. The PhD will also contribute important insights for conducting research in spiritual direction today. It will do so by drawing on, and modifying frameworks appropriate to this end, including Theological Action Research, theories of practice of spiritual direction, and the aims and methods of contemplative science. By doing so, the research will create a robust methodology for the dialogue between spiritual direction and contemplative sciences. This foundational research will lead to publications in an international journal.
The University of Divinity gives the researcher access to its eleven constituent Colleges and their libraries. This University also links with the meditation research alliance ‘Confluence’, which intersects academic research, meditation practitioners and meditation communities. Thus, the research will be conducted in partnership between the members of Confluence and the University of Divinity. The PhD project will be advertised through University of Divinity and associated partners before the end of 2018, for commencement in 2019.
Spiritual Directors International (Asia/Pacific)
An Academic Accredited Symposium titled “Spiritual Direction without Borders” to launch a series of academic symposiums.
Detailed description of project:
The initial symposium would be developed as an academically accredited symposium inviting researchers in the field of spiritual direction and spirituality to present their findings to the broader spiritual direction community. The project would promote exploration of spirituality and spiritual direction within and beyond the boundaries of current understanding and expression. This would include embracing a range of religious traditions and spiritual perspectives while seeking to find a way to accommodate the distinctive nature of spiritual direction within the range of traditions.
In Australia and the Asia/Pacific region, there are over 20 research-active scholars in academic fields related to Spiritual Direction whose work remains predominantly unacknowledged within the broader spiritual direction community.
The purpose of the initial symposium would be to provide an avenue for researchers to:
- articulate their findings in an accessible format
- encourage the publication of their findings;
- open up new areas of discussion and debate about the future directions for spiritual direction in Australia and beyond; and
- promote interest in further research in the area of spiritual direction within Australia and the surrounding regions.