An empirical study on the nature of the verbal responses of humanist chaplains

de J. Vos, Arjan W. Braam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic


There has been a limited amount of empirical research conducted in the past on how chaplains, and humanist chaplains in particular, actually interact with their clients during conversations as a part of spiritual care and counselling. The aim of the current study was to gain insight into the extent to which the verbal responses of humanist chaplains corresponded to Rogers’ nondirective approach during conversations with clients. Rogers’ approach has been commonly embraced since the beginning of the professionalization of humanist chaplains in the Netherlands. The study focused on humanist chaplains working at a general hospital in the Netherlands. Ten humanist chaplains took part in the study by audio recording their conversations with clients. The audio recordings were transcribed and analysed, and the verbal responses of humanist chaplains were compared to Rogers’ approach. Subsequently, the verbal responses were analysed via conversation analysis, which also provided insight into how the humanist chaplains actually conversed with clients. Most of the verbal responses (73%) were consistent with Rogers’ nondirective approach, though the ways in which some of the verbal responses were expressed were different; they were more compassionate and comforting. The remaining 27% of the verbal responses were directive and did not correspond to Rogers’ approach. The study shows that, compared to Rogers’ nondirective approach, the approach of the humanist chaplains was more direct and comforting.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2021

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