How can I talk with a patient about spiritual distress when I am not religious?
Remember, there is a difference between religion and spirituality. Regardless of your religiousness or lack thereof, you can implement the caring skills presented in chapter five. A HCP (health care provider) does not have to be religious to reflect feelings, ask open questions, and so forth.
Look for the spiritual common denominator between you and the patient. For example, you may both believe that love is one of the greatest virtues and that showing compassion for others is an ultimate purpose for which to live. Or, you may both accept there is some Ultimate Other or Sacred Source by which to orient one's life. Although you may have different labels and beliefs about this entity, you can begin to understand the patient's perspective and nurture spiritual awareness.
Although an institutionalized form of religion may not be nurturing to you right now, you inevitably have various spiritual beliefs and practices. You will bring your spirituality to the bedside. The HCP's religious biases for or against religion must be kept in check. Such biases cannot be kept in check, however, unless the HCP is aware of them. Understanding your own spirituality will help you to understand and respond to another's spiritual distress.
From Elizabeth Johnston Taylor, What Do I Say? Talking with Patients about Spirituality (Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2007), 112-13.