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Spirituality SIG Chair Blog - May 2022

A Bigger Picture of Spirituality in Psychiatry

I am writing this blog on my way home from our first face to face SPSIG day conference in over two years, held at the College on 5 May. It has been good to see members again in three dimensions – and not only in a small zoom window on a computer. Our theme for the conference – the “Bigger Picture” – seems to sum up much of what spirituality is all about, seeing ourselves and others as a part of a bigger picture of life as meaningful, relational and multi-dimensional.

If spirituality is about something more than the merely material order, it is also still grounded in that physical reality. Being present to one another, physically and not just virtually, is an important part of spirituality. In the Christian tradition to which I belong we might refer to this as sacramental, but the immanence of the spiritual within the material order is an important part of many faiths and also the newer spiritualities that eschew religion.

At the conference, our bigger picture was informed by the twelve-step approach of Alcoholics Anonymous, the thinking behind the Power, Threat, Meaning framework, and the techniques of open dialogue, all of which provide radical ways of rethinking how we understand spirituality as an important and pervasive part of human wellbeing.

We are grateful to Sarah Eagger for organising this event, and to our speakers for an engaging and thought-provoking day. Perhaps equally important were the many discussions over coffee and lunch that enabled us to share our common interests in spirituality, and our mutual concerns for one another. (Many thanks also to the College Dean for dropping by at lunchtime and sharing that part of the day with us!)

In the plenary session of the conference, there was some discussion about what members would like to see in future SIG events. As a Special Interest Group, we are keen to know what you think and as a SIG member you should already have received an e-mail inviting you to take part in a survey of members’ views.

Please do respond to the survey and let us know what you think. The survey will close at the end of this month (May) so you still have time to respond if you have not done so already.

The Spirituality & Psychiatry SIG of the RCPsych is itself a part of a bigger picture of spirituality and psychiatry worldwide. The Ethics Committee of the APA has recently (2021) published a new Resource Document on the Interface of Religion, Spirituality, and Psychiatric Practice which helpfully affirms the importance of spirituality for both psychiatrists and their patients and offers some useful ethical guidance.[1] The Section on Religion and Spirituality at the World Psychiatric Association brings together psychiatrists from all member organisations (including RCPsych).

We express our sympathy to the colleagues, family and friends of its chair, Dr Avdesh Sharma, who died recently, as well as our support for its new chair, Dr Alun Fung. The bigger picture of spirituality and religion in psychiatry worldwide is one of increasing recognition of the importance of addressing the needs of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. As members of the SPSIG we are all privileged to be a part of this and play our own part in taking this forward in our clinical work, professional development, and mutual support.

Warm good wishes to all


Professor Christopher CH Cook

Chair, SPSIG

May 2022


SPSIG student bursaries

The Spirituality in Psychiatry Special Interest Group have made available some funds to subsidise the attendance of medical students at their day conferences.

The bursary is applied for on the following application form, submitted to

This bursary is a one-off partial payment for a specific SPSIG conference, paid from SIG funds.

Students should apply using their academic, NHS or hospital trust email address and stating their course of study, their institution and which year they are now in.

The bursary is primarily intended for medical students. Preference will be given to student associates of the RCPsych.

Consideration will be given to students of other subjects in the fields of mental health and spirituality, or low paid or voluntary mental health workers, on a case by case basis.

A higher level of bursary is available for those willing to help out practically on the day e.g. by passing the roving microphone during discussions.

The SPSIG executive committee will decide who receives the bursary, their decision is final.

Read more to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry