OT Perspective: understanding different spiritual goals

Okay OTs. We all know basic OT frameworkS such as MOHO and CMOP-E & PEO. Some of you may even know about others like the KAWA model (Iwama, Thomson & Macdonald, 2009) and the Spirituality Framework (Smith, 2008). This is great knowledge to have, but this post is not about the perfect framework. In fact, I feel all of these are helpful and as therapists we each have particular frameworks that resonate with us more.

spirituality is obviouslyyy best addressed by COPM – E… right?

Sometimes, sometimes not. Let me explain.

I remember as a student when I first learnt about spirituality within OT, it was simply defined as ‘beliefs and possible religious identity’. I remember asking further questions but my lecturer had no idea what I was on about (I don’t blame her!). We learnt about religious sensitivity and that was that. Even then I felt we should have been taught a more encompassing understanding of spirituality. Sure, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – but isn’t that true for any OT subject?

The more my spiritual practice developed, the more I realised that everyone defines spirituality differently. It can be tempting to always consider spirituality at the core like the COPM-E Framework, as an occupation in PEO or volition in MOHO. Instead, I feel we should judge each client case by case and see which definition and hence framework fits the clients spiritual goals the most.

So today I will share about some different goals of spirituality. Before we start providing any spiritual therapy services, it is really important to have a good understanding of these basics, just like we would any other area of OT.

wait, doesn’t everyone on the spiritual journey seek enlightenment?

Not really. You see, people get into spirituality for different reasons. Yes, some seek spiritual enlightenment, but others simply seek comfort in prayer, social connection or purposeful identity. So the same act of going to church regularly could be about spiritual enlightenment, about the social connection or about a productive occupation.

Below I have tried to break down some of these different types of spirituality. Please note, this does not mean anyone is superior or inferior, it is just made for illustrative purposes. We are all on our own individual journeys.

Types of Spiritual Practice

As you can see, there are many types of spiritual practice that a client may request assistance for. As therapists, it is our role to first ensure we understand the clients intentions of their spiritual practice e.g. do they want to start yoga to become more active, more disciplined or practice surrender to life? Each of these intentions have such different intervention approaches, so I cannot stress enough how important it is we listen to the client goals first!!

Now that we have covered the different types of spiritual goals, I will explore each of these more deeply and the types of interventions we can use for specific spiritual goals.

Did you find this post helpful? Please let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me on my social media!


Smith, S, (2008). Toward a flexible framework for understanding spirituality. Occupational therapy in health care22(1), 39-54.)

Iwama, M. K., Thomson, N. A., & Macdonald, R. M. (2009). The Kawa model: The power of culturally responsive occupational therapy. Disability and Rehabilitation, 31, 1125-1135.