Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Peter Dunn

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Although psychosocial oncology is gaining in popularity as more research is conducted to support its inclusion in health care, there is still a lack of incorporation of spirituality in health care. The purpose of this study is to answer the following research questions: 1) How do participants use spirituality to aid in their healing? 2) How would participants like their health care professionals, specifically social workers, to incorporate spirituality into their formal care?

A qualitative, phenomenological methodology was selected for this investigation in an effort to gain an understanding of the lived experiences of people with cancer. Semi-structured interviews were conducted. The data was manually analyzed using color coding, first to identify the major categories and then to identify themes within each category.

The findings of this investigation were contained in five major categories: healing, spirituality, feeling supported and connected, role of health care professionals and recommendations for health care providers.

The processes of healing described by the participants in this study were compared to Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief and Goldsworthy’s grief and loss theory and intervention. This study provides an alternative theory of healing that suggests four possible emotions people may experience when diagnosed with cancer; questioning, denial, fear and acceptance. These emotions are not experienced in a linear and they may not be experienced by everyone, however they were common emotions experienced by the participants in this study.

Recommendations for practice were provided by the participants. They suggested that by exploring spirituality, engaging in a holistic approach and by providing tools such as peer support and meditation programs, social workers can better meet people’s spiritual and emotional needs during their cancer experience.

Convocation Year


Included in

Social Work Commons