Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

The Journal of Pastoral Theology

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

The Journal of Pastoral Theology

Article excerpt

Kelly, A. (2010).

Models of understanding chronic illness: Implications for pastoral theology and care

Vol. 19, 22-35

With rising numbers of individuals in the United States possessing chronic illnesses, pastoral caregivers are presented with increased opportunities to interact with careseekers suffering from chronic illness. Because there are psychospiritual ramifications in the pastoral care relationship from how caregivers view chronic illness, caregivers are presented with and are encouraged to think through their own assumptions, beliefs, and biases pertaining to chronic illness, as well as assumptions, beliefs, and biases careseekers may hold regarding their illness. Three models of understanding chronic illness--moral, biomedical, and social--are presented and discussed, followed by a discussion of the theological and practical implications of providing pastoral care according to each respective model.

Caregivers or careseekers who embrace the Moral Model may view their illness as a divine means of propelling sanctification or punishment for sin. Additionally, illness may be conceived as a "deviation from the idealized 'perfect body'," which was intended for them as a part of God's original, flawless plan for mankind (p. 24). While some individuals may secure a degree of meaning and hope from their suffering by viewing their illness as a divine instrument for sanctification, for others this perspective may yield an array of negative consequences. This might include an individual embracing a martyr mentality that can result in a pretentious spiritual superiority, a sense of shame about their body because of their chronic illness, or feelings of guilt and unworthiness due to their belief that their illness is a result of sin.

The Biomedical Model espouses a more natural, mechanistic perspective of the human person, and accordingly, of chronic illness. This is often undertaken at the "exclusion of psychospiritual dimensions of health" (p. 24). A benefit of this model is its "strong explanatory power," which can provide comforting answers and explanations to careseekers with questions and concerns about their illness and its treatment (p. …

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