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Spiritual/Religious Coping as Intentional Activity: An Action Theoretical Perspective

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Spiritual/religious coping has proven to be a fertile ground for investigating health-related spirituality in action. Ken Pargament and his colleagues have successfully demonstrated that spiritual/religious coping diff ers significantly from previously identified coping strategies. While much has been accomplished to date, there are undeveloped theoretical and methodological avenues that appear to provide important promise for understanding the complexities of this critical domain of coping. Some scholars have failed to conceptualize and research spiritual/religious coping as a contextual, temporally bounded process. This paper explores the theoretical and methodological advantages of adopting a contextually embedded, process-oriented epistemology—contextual action theory. We propose that doing so will not only address some of the inadequacies of the extant literature but also aid researchers in exploring novel dimensions of spiritual/religious coping. From a contextual action-theory perspective, spiritual/religious coping is viewed as intentional, goal-directed behaviour that is embedded in a social and relational context. This teleonomic reconceptualization enables researchers to understand the constitution and development of intentions involved in the process of spiritual/religious coping over time. Further, a contextual action theory perspective transcends the narrow, individualistic lens of coping and explores joint and collective coping processes that emerge as people draw upon spiritual/religious practices to cope with distress. Thus, spiritual/religious coping is embedded in social and relational context and as part of personal, intentional goal-directed processes over time. The novel contributions of a contextual theoretical perspective to spiritual/religious coping research and theory are illustrated through a case example.

Affiliations: 1: The University of British Columbia Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4


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