Spiritual Healing

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Spiritual Healing

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Spiritual healing is a catch all term for any number of healing methods. Much of the difficulty in defining the term comes from different views of the word spirit itself, thus spiritual healing has significant overlap with other methods of healing.

Spiritual Healing in Various Interpretations

Spiritual Healing in connection to our soul

The general belief that many of the ailments we suffer from are the result of a build up of toxins in our soul or moral center. It is difficult to view this interpretation as espousing a specific treatment method but rather a lifestyle. The focus is on aspiring to a higher standard of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

The physical aspect can be met by improving one’s diet, fitness, and sleep schedules and through regular massage therapy to help eliminate and prevent the build up of physical bodily toxins.

Emotional and mental health can be improved through meditation, engaging in intellectual pursuits, the creation of art, and self reflection. Practitioners also believe that one’s spiritual health is often related to misplaced energy in one’s soul. This energy can be directed through living a life of virtue and an attention to love and respect for others. Other helpful practices are finding a connection to one’s ancestors and various rituals with shamans including soul retrieval and power animal retrieval.

Woman creates art by painting
Creation of art is one of the great ways to improve your emotional and mental health.

Spiritual Healing in Connection to Beings Within The Spiritual Realm

This is the belief that a number of our problems are in fact caused by either karma, destiny, or unperceivable entities including negative energies or ghosts. The comprehension of these energies require a strongly developed sixth sense. Due to the fact that most people do not have the capabilities of recognizing (or even believing in) spirits, disturbances of this nature are difficult to ascertain and require the assistance of either gifted or specially trained experts endowed with a “sixth sense”.

Using this definition of spiritual healing, our problems can be solved by fixing these disturbances in the spiritual dimension. One suggested method is the development of spiritual awareness through spiritual practice, which is a multi-faceted training that focuses on, among other things, prayer, meditation, positive virtue, and reduction of the ego. There is no one treatment for spiritual ailments as each issue has its own method of spiritual healing. For example, soaking one’s feet in a salt water solution may cleanse the body of “black energy” and thus reduce stress, lethargy, and other negative emotions.

Spiritual Healing in Connection to a God-like Figure

Believers of this interpretation see healing being conducted by the intervention of God or gods, also known as “divine intervention”. This is often referred to as “faith healing”. This has an especially strong tradition within the Christian faith.

The New Testament of the Holy Bible has numerous stories of the power of the Holy Spirit to heal ailments ranging from minor diseases to major problems such as blindness and invalidity or crippling injuries. This spiritual healing is dependent on the faith of the healed. Thus many preachers and healers, namely within but not limited to the Pentecostal denomination, began to base much of their services on the healing power of God through an intermediate. This spiritual healing has been called “laying of hands”, as practiced by such famous healers as Sam Wigglesworth, Oral Roberts, and more modernly Benny Hinn.

Laying of hands spiritual healing
Many preachers and healers believe that laying of hands heals ailments ranging from minor diseases to major problems such as blindness and invalidity or crippling injuries.

The application of faith healing is also connected to the power of a group or church congregation’s prayers to heal to heal the sick. The latter is considered to be a common belief of US residents in particular, though the levels of belief on the healing powers of prayer do vary significantly. The possible positive effects of prayer have been oft-ridiculed as of late online following the ineffectual calls for “thoughts and prayers” after well-publicized tragedies.

Portrait of Oral Roberts
American Christian televangelist
(1918 – 2009)
Faith is not something you have to get. It's something that you, as a bornagain child of God, already have. Act on it by releasing it to God. That's when your healing starts!

Spiritual Healing in Connection to a Secular Higher Power

Although many define “higher power” as a being similar to a god, it does not necessarily mean that. A higher power can be defined as anything greater than oneself. This can include friendship, communities, or support groups. Acknowledging our powerlessness to overcome problems alone and submitting oneself to the healing abilities of a higher power is a hallmark of 12-step programs, constituting the first three steps of recovery.

Many “non-spiritual” addicts have found comfort and acceptance of the program by accepting this broader definition of spirituality and that the path to healing relies on the idea that connecting oneself to the power of a greater whole can give the push needed to tackle our “demons”. It is not an extreme logical push to see this idea as being similar to the above mentioned interpretations of “spirit”.

The others may see a supernatural aspect to the idea of spirit, but there are analogous features to this more “skeptical” view on the nature of spirituality.


Given the wide interpretations of the term “spiritual healing”, it is difficult to properly study the effectiveness of it. Another drawback is the difficulty of experimental design. Much of these treatment methods are based upon supernatural or metaphysical ideas, which are by their very nature “unmeasurable”.

Efficacy studies of each specific type of spiritual healing is covered in other sections of this website, but one area that has been the subject of a myriad of clinical trials and tests—likely due to the aforementioned mainstream American belief in its power—is the effects of prayer on the treatment of disease. There have been far too many to comprehensively cover in this article, but there seems to be mixed results.

According to a 1997 study by O’Laoire, 15 minutes of directed prayer over a course of 12 weeks showed a significant improvement in a number of areas including levels of depression and anxiety. Fascinatingly, both the recipients and givers of prayer received benefit over the course of study.

However, the level of improvement of those receiving prayer depended on the strength of their belief that they were being prayed for, suggesting possible placebo effects.

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In 2001, the Mayo Clinic conducted a study on the power of intercessory prayer (praying to a higher power for the benefit of somebody else) on heart surgery recipients over a period of 26 weeks. Unfortunately, no significant benefits were found.

Therapeutic Effects of Spiritual Healing – STEP & MANTRA

Two of the most significant projects to study the power of prayer are Duke’s 2005 MANTRA (Monitoring and Actualisation of Noetic Trainings) study and the STEP (Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer) project.

The MANTRA project investigated over three years the effects of prayer and MIT (Music, Imagery, and Touch) therapies on heart patients. It is among the first and largest studies of its kind. However, the study yielded no significant positive results for either spiritual healing therapy. Despite these findings, believers of the power of prayer argue that the failures of the experiment may be the result of either the experiment design or varying interpretations on the meaning of prayer, suggesting that the nature of the prayer was not systematized and there are different types and quality of prayer.

The STEP project tried to control for this possibility by standardizing the method and type of prayer. The study also limited the project to those suffering from heart-related ailments, but despite the size and sophisticated design of the study, no significant results were found.

Many believers of intercessory prayer are galvanized by the findings of a meta-review from 2000 showing mixed to to positive results on distance prayer’s efficacy, but this study predates and does not include the results of MANTRA and STEP. A later meta-review noted a small positive effect, but the quality of the individual studies varied.

It can be argued that despite the inconclusive results of these studies, surely prayer and spiritual healing can be seen as an innocuous behavior. The power of placebo is strong and if it provides comfort for those who believe, prayer can only have a positive benefit. Yet, this is only true if practitioners do not forego medical treatment.

Other Explanations for Spiritual Healing Effects

Little scientific evidence has been found on the effectiveness of faith healers though there exists anecdotal evidence. Recently, popular hypnotist and mentalist Derren Brown attempted to disprove the supernatural nature of faith healing in his program Miracles for Sale, in which he trained a man in many of the persuasive and deceptive techniques of faith healers.

Many of the core beliefs of spiritual healing practitioners are in line with widespread accepted models such as Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs that claims that health is based upon a building series of needs from physiological to safety to love and belonging, all the way up to self-actualization. It is not difficult to see the parallels to the interpretations of spiritual health as listed above, although his theory does not contain any metaphysical components. One may see both as describing the same forces, only with alternative interpretations.

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