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Role of belief in miracles in clinical settings – a literature review

Journal of Psychology & Clinical Psychiatry
Miriam Martins Leal,1 Evellyn Cristiny Pereira Marinho Bezerra,2 Marta Helena de Freitas3


Health professionals, in their daily clinical practice, are often faced with the verbalization of belief in miracles by patients and surrogates, in cases of serious diseases. Many of them consider the content of this belief in decision-making in terminal stages of the disease. However, this topic is little discussed in academic and scientific circles, together with a large gap in health training. The objective of this study is to understand the research scenario for the topic in question, how it has been approached in contemporary times, what perspectives and methodologies have been adopted in published studies, what results they have achieved, and to what extent they are or are not convergent or divergent each other in terms of implications for clinical practice. A literature review was carried out, using the descriptors: faith healing, delivery of health care, belief, miracle, clinical practice and divine cure, in Portuguese and English, in the VHL, PubMed, SciELO, PsycInfo databases. From a total of 2,369 articles initially found, 32 were selected, 14 of which resulted from empirical research, 13 were theoretical in nature and five were opinion-based. Twenty-three articles focused on the professional’s perspective on the topic. In addition to the onesided nature of the studies, which tend to present only the perspectives of health professionals and neglect the experiences of patients and caregivers themselves in relation to the phenomenon of belief in miracles, it was observed that it tends to be stigmatized and interpreted as a mere denial of reality, with the potential to trigger conflicts between patients/surrogates and health professionals. It may be concluded that there is a need for more studies focusing on the genuine experiences of patients and surrogates, in order to support an epistemologically qualified clinical practice, for an understanding of the phenomenon of belief in miracles and its subjective and intersubjective impacts in clinical contexts and, consequently, consistent with a more comprehensive conception of physical and mental health. 


miracle, literature review, belief, clinical practice