Ongoing Research Efforts

Parallel to our development of a comprehensive CCSH™ (Compassion-Centered Spiritual Health) program, created in collaboration with Emory Spiritual Health and the Emory Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics, we have launched a mixed-methods research program designed to evaluate whether CCSH impacts chaplains and the patients and staff for whom they provide spiritual consultation. CCSH leverages the work of Emory Healthcare’s hospital chaplains by incorporating CBCT ® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training), a secular meditation program that includes mindfulness and compassion practices, into their spiritual consultations. Previous work from our group and others has found that CBCT increases compassion, reduces loneliness and depression, and attenuates the acute pro-inflammatory response to psychosocial stress.

To evaluate the impact of CCSH on patient outcomes, we are conducting a pilot study to explore the immediate impact of a single session of CCSH on patient satisfaction, depression, and anxiety. Chaplain residents are randomized to complete CBCT and to be trained to deliver CCSH as part of their course of residency in the fall or spring. After the fall training, all residents provide spiritual health consultations. The residents not yet trained to deliver CCSH provide a traditional chaplain consult that includes active listening. We collect audio recordings of chaplain consultations and administer patient-reported outcome measures immediately after the consultation. This study provides first-of-its-kind data on the linguistic and behavioral components of effective chaplain intervention, as well as new knowledge of the mediating mechanisms linking spiritual care with health outcomes. In addition, we are evaluating the acceptability and impact of CCSH interventions for Emory Healthcare staff. We have recently begun a pilot study of a CCSH intervention for teams, which is being delivered to healthcare teams in the Winship Cancer Institute. In the spring of 2020, we will begin a pilot study to evaluate a CCSH program in the Emory Emergency Department.

To test the effect on chaplain residents of including CBCT® and CCSH™ in the residency curriculum, we are conducting a study on the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 cohorts of residents in which we measure empathic accuracy with a video task and administer self-report measures on chaplain well-being at four time points during the residency year: before and after the fall CBCT® and CCSH™ training, and before and after the spring CBCT® and CCSH™ training. The incorporation of CCSH within spiritual health has transformative potential for broadening the scope of spiritual support for patients with diverse faith models and for non-denominational patient populations. The research we are conducting can advance our understanding of the skillful means by which the wisdom of compassion may be translated to reduce suffering and enhance well-being. For example, we will be able to test the following hypotheses:

  1. That chaplains trained in CBCT and CCSH delivery will report more compassion satisfaction and less burnout.
  2. That empathic and compassionate language are distinct and meaningful components of the spiritual consultation. We use the generally agreed upon scientific definitions of empathy as a shared emotional response with another that is coupled with some level of understanding that the emotions are related to that other.  Compassion is the aspirational motivation to help ease another’s suffering. We believe both are important for spiritual consultation, and we will examine how chaplains experience and convey empathy and compassion with patients, and how this is impacted by CCSH.
  3. That chaplains trained in CCSH are more present during patients’ expressions of difficult emotions. We believe this will be reflected by fewer interruptions and fewer missed opportunities for empathic and compassionate language during difficult emotional interactions.
  4. That patients and staff will report high levels of satisfaction with CCSH consultations and will receive benefits in terms of reduced depression and anxiety symptoms after the consultations.

Explore Other Spiritual Health Research Efforts

Research Articles

Compassion Meditation Training for Hospital Chaplain Residents: A Pilot Study

Marcia J. Ash, Elizabeth Reisinger Walker, Ralph J. DiClemente, Marianne P. Florian, Patricia K. Palmer, Kathryn Wehrmeyer, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, George H. Grant, Charles L. Raison & Jennifer S. Mascaro

Learning Compassion and Meditation: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of the Experience of Novice Meditators

Jennifer S. Mascaro, Marianne P. Florian, Marcia J. Ash, Patricia K. Palmer, Anuja Sharma, Deanna M. Kaplan, Roman Palitsky, George Grant and Charles L. Raison

Feasibility, Acceptability, and Preliminary Effectiveness of a Compassion-Centered Team Intervention to Improve Clinical Research Coordinator Resilience and Well-Being

Jennifer S. Mascaro, PhD; Patricia K. Palmer, MSPH, MDiv; Marcia J. Ash, MPH; Caroline Peacock, LCSW, MDiv; Anuja Sharma, MPH; Cam Escoffery, PhD, MPH; and Charles Raison, MD