Some differences between social work, spiritual care, and psychology: Content variance in end-of-life conversations

Michael Schultz, Svetlana Baziliansky, Inbal Mitnik, Nirit Ulitzur, Salvatore Campisi-Pinto, Simon Givoli, Gil Bar-Sela, Daniela Zalman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives Within the multidisciplinary team, there can sometimes be lack of clarity as to the specific different contributions of each of the psycho-social-spiritual professionals: social workers, psychologist, and spiritual caregivers. This study examined the content of their end-of-life conversations with patients. Methods A total of 180 patients with terminal cancer received standard multidisciplinary care, including conversations with a social worker, psychologist, and spiritual caregiver. After each patient's death, these professionals reported using a structured tool which content areas had arisen in their conversations with that patient. Results Across all content areas, there were significant differences between social work and spiritual care. The difference between social work and psychology was slightly smaller but still quite large. Psychology and spiritual care were the most similar, though they still significantly differed in half the content areas. The differences persisted even among patients who spoke with more than 1 kind of professional. The 6 content areas examined proved to subdivide into 2 linked groups, where patients speaking about 1 were more likely to speak about the others. One group, "reflective"topics (inner and transpersonal resources, interpersonal relationships, one's past, and end of life), included all those topics which arose more often with spiritual caregivers or psychologists. The second group, "decision-making"topics (medical coping and life changes), was comprised of those topics which arose most commonly with social workers, bridging between the medical and personal aspects of care and helping patients navigate their new physical, psychological, and social worlds. Significance of results These findings help shed light on the differences, in practice, between patients' conversations with social workers, psychologists, and spiritual caregivers and the roles these professionals are playing; can aid in formulating individualized care plans; and strengthen the working assumption that all 3 professions contribute in unique, complementary ways to improving patients' and families' well-being.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • Cancer
  • Chaplaincy service
  • End-of-life care
  • Psychology
  • Social work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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