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Professional practices of spiritual care and empowerment in transitions of life - Place for one external PhD candidate

Chair group

Humanist chaplaincy studies for a plural society 

You can also have a look on the Dutch website.


Prof. dr. Gaby Jacobs

Humanist Chaplaincy Studies for a Plural Society 

ChairHumanist Chaplaincy studies for a Plural Society
Supervisors Prof. dr. Gaby Jacobs and assistant/associate professors

Field of Research:    Chaplaincy / spiritual care; and /or moral distress in professional work   

Spiritual care  is the professional guidance and counselling of persons, groups and organizations with questions regarding meaning in life and moral orientation. It is changing significantly in the wake of globalization and secularization, resulting in the fragmentation of traditional religions and the emergence of various sorts of new and independent forms of spirituality. Spiritual care is not limited to individual counselling and guidance, but increasingly focuses on support and education of professionals and leaders addressing moral and political issues within plural communities, organizations and society. The focus of this research topic is to develop insights into the current, transforming and new practices of spiritual care, especially within the domain of social care, primary care and home care. This may include narrative and embodied humanistic counselling methods, arts-based methods and their unique value (outcomes) to individual persons, groups or organizations; the collaboration between different professions (interprofessional collaboration) in responding to the diverse existential, spiritual and moral needs of people in a swiftly changing world; as well as the learning involved in developing spiritual care practices amongst different disciplines. 

Meaning in life and meaning-making practices 

Meaning in life as a central concept in the UHS research program has been theorized by philosophers and psychologists mostly from a white-western, individualistic and cognitive perspective.  In this research topic we welcome PhD students to conduct research into meaning in life and existential needs of diverse groups in society (e.g. people with psychiatric problems, children, young asylum seekers, homeless people) and from a critical, relational and/or political perspective. This may include the sources of meaning these groups employ; the use of the arts, rituals or other non-cognitive forms of meaning making; and the methodological challenges involved in conducting research on meaning in life in general, and with these special groups in particular. Innovative and/or transformative methods, such as participatory action research or arts-based research, are welcomed.  

Moral injury and moral resilience within professional work [in collaboration with the chair group Citizenship and Humanisation of the Public Sector ] 

Professional work is under pressure. Freidson (2001) has argued that the spheres of management and consumers and the values related to these, are increasing and changing the professional work, resulting in less professional autonomy and the diminishing of value-based work. Research shows that moral distress and moral injury of professionals is a growing problem, resulting in demotivation, burnout and moral erosion of organizations. 

The focus of this research topic is on the moral resilience of professionals, in particular chaplains (spiritual care workers), health care workers, military personnel or police officers. Research may include the development and/or evaluation of moral education programs; of moral resilience interventions and personal, collective and organizational measures to foster moral resilience. The role of chaplaincy in addressing moral distress and strengthening moral resilience may be part of the research. 

Examples of research questions

• What does meaning in life entail from a diversity perspective and what instruments and methods are suitable in studying it?

• What is the role of embodiment in the spiritual care relationship and what does it possibly add to the existing conceptualization of narrative or presence approaches?  

• What interventions contribute to preventing moral distress of health care workers, both on an individual, group, organizational and societal level?

• What is chaplains' contribution to fostering moral resilience of healthcare workers / army veterans?  

Place for:

 One external PhD candidate

Contact and information

            Supervised by professor Gaby Jacobs.