Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction PhD

First Advisor

Larry D. Burton

Second Advisor

Lynn Millar

Third Advisor

Jerome Thayer



The physical therapy profession currently does not require the integration of spirituality in patient care in the physical therapy curriculum, and it is unclear how physical therapy faculty and practitioners view its inclusion. There is limited research literature on the integration of spirituality in the field of physical therapy or within its academic environment.


The study utilized standard survey research methodology to gather data relating to spirituality and its inclusion in a physical therapy curriculum. Five participants from each of 101 sampled programs received a survey instrument along with instructions and consent form disseminated through electronic mailing. Data were analyzed on 166 respondents using descriptive and inferential statistics.


Approximately half (49.0%) of the respondents indicated their physical therapy programs included spirituality concepts. More than half of the respondents (56.0%) also indicated that they believed spirituality concepts should be included in physical therapy education and that every physical therapy program should include it in its curriculum. Response patterns indicated respondents felt spirituality concepts should be integrated into the physical therapy curriculum rather than having specific courses focused on spirituality. Respondents indicated spirituality concepts should be taught by a few physical therapy faculty members who have a basic level of experience in spirituality and involve spiritual leaders in their teaching. Collaborative discussions, case studies, and presentations were viewed by more than 75% of the respondents as the most effective ways to teach spirituality concepts.


It is recommended that spirituality objectives be added to the Normative Model of Physical Therapist professional education accreditation guidelines as well as the Guide to Physical Therapist Practice. It is also recommended that the American Physical Therapy Association adopt a principle of addressing the spiritual needs of patients in the Practice Act for physical therapists. Lastly, it is recommended that directors of physical therapy programs equip their faculty members with a basic knowledge of spirituality beliefs and practices to allow them to gain the experience needed to teach topics of spirituality.

Subject Area

Physical therapy--Study and teaching, Physical therapy--Religious aspects.


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