Dr Anja Visser-Nieraeth has been appointed Associate Professor of Spiritual Care at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen as of August 2016. She has been working as a lecturer in Psychology of Religion on a temporary basis in the Department of Comparative Study of Religion
since November 2015
In her new job, she will teach
in the Minor, pre-Master’s and Master’s programmes in Spiritual Care and conduct research in the field.
Role of spirituality in coping with cancer
In 2007, Anja Visser gained a Research Master’s degree in Behavioural Sciences from Tilburg University, where she specialized in Health Psychology. From 2008 to 2013, she worked as a researcher at the Helen Dowling Institute (HDI), carrying out PhD research into the role of spirituality in coping with cancer. She was awarded a PhD by Tilburg University in 2015. At the HDI, she also conducted a 1-year research project in Maasstad Hospital in Rotterdam, studying the attention that oncological case managers paid to the questions regarding meaning of cancer patients. This research was commissioned by the Rijnmond Pastoral Care Foundation (Stichting Geestelijke Verzorging Rijnmond). She has worked as a consultant on the SPIR VONC project of the HDI, examining the spiritual care offered by nurses in curative oncological care, as a teacher of psychology at University College Roosevelt, and as an editor for the Dutch Journal of Behavioural Medicine.
Outpatient care increasingly important
Which themes will Anja Visser focus on at the University of Groningen? ‘I will concentrate my research on two separate components: outpatient spiritual care and “new spiritual fulfilment”. The number of spiritual care professionals that are employed at care institutions is decreasing, while demand in the care sector is for holistic care that includes attention to the physical, social, emotional, psychological and spiritual health of patients. In addition, people tend to spend less time in care institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes and mental health institutions. Pastoral care outside the walls of the institution is therefore becoming increasingly important. The research I am carrying out with my department focuses on the integration and shaping of the spiritual care given by other care workers, and the role that spiritual care professionals can play in the professional development and supplementary specialist care regarding spiritual fulfilment, questions of life and beliefs.’
Understanding spiritual fulfilment processes
The other research theme relates to spiritual fulfilment processes. Anja Visser explains
: ‘A lot has changed in the religious landscape and our attitudes to faith and beliefs are changing too. This makes it difficult for anyone working in the care sector, particularly spiritual care professionals, to understand people
s spiritual fulfilment processes and help them along their path. It is important for us to learn the words, images and acts people use to practise their spirituality and faith, so that we can safeguard care for them into the future,’ says the Associate Professor
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