Spiritual Coping in Portuguese Immigrants to British Columbia

Numerous studies on the relationship between spirituality and mental and physical health have demonstrated that spiritual coping is an effective way of dealing with stress. Most research in this area has been conducted with members of ethnic and religious majorities. But little is known about how ethnic and religious minorities employ faith in coping with stress. Derrick Klaassen is examining the spiritual coping practices of Portuguese immigrants to British Columbia. Susan James and her colleagues at the University of British Columbia demonstrated that many of these immigrants suffer from a culture specific disorder termed agonias, translated as “”the agonies””. North American health care providers have generally misdiagnosed this problem as indigestion rather than anxiety or stress, and as a result the treatments have remained ineffective. Klassen has two goals for his research. The first is to add to the understanding of effective intervention for agonias by exploring the various healing systems that Portuguese immigrants employ (e.g. mental/health systems, spiritual, community, and cultural resources). The second goal is to examine the ways in which Portuguese immigrants use spiritual strategies to cope with agonias. Klaassen’s research involves conducting focus groups and revising an existing assessment tool for this community. The resulting questionnaire will serve both practitioners and scholars in their investigations of the role of spirituality in coping with stress in Portuguese immigrants. This project is part of a multi-stage program of research that will formulate a culturally sensitive treatment manual for health providers.