Forschungsinstitut für
Spiritualität und Gesundheit

Research Institute for
Spirituality and Health



From the outcome assessment of a holistic approach to
a internationally recognized research institute

The Beginnings of the Evaluation of a Holistic Clinical Approach

Since its foundation in 1987, the SGM clinic in Langenthal (Switzerland) has been claiming to practice holistic medicine. It was therefore also challenged to evaluate and verify this holistic approach in its effectiveness. The scientific examination of this holistic approach was a concern from the outset and led in 1991 to the establishment of the Institute for Religious Psychology and Religious Psychopathology on the basis of a foundation of the same name. For many years, however, resources and competencies were inadequate to pursue this approach. Later, the clinic staff came across scientific work from North America that examined the interaction of medicine and spirituality, so to speak, as an extension of the bio-psycho-social model. This new research approach was at the heart of the cilinc's concern.

The Research Institute for Spirituality and Health RISH Being Developed

In 1999, the SGM Clinic under the direction of its former Chief Physician, Dr. med. René Hefti, began a systematic evaluation of its therapeutic results, incorporating religiosity. The positive experiences led to a continuously deeper scientific analysis of the topic. In 2004, René Hefti had the opportunity to study at the "Center for the Study of Religion / Spirituality and Health" at Duke University in Durham (NC, USA) with Professor Harold G. Koenig. This led to the formation of an internal clinic research department in Langenthal and the re-conception of the already existing Institute for Religious Psychopathology under the new name "Research Institute for Spirituality and Health"(

In 2005 the Research Institute invited Professor Koenig to Switzerland, who offered a first research workshop. In addition, the Research Institute, in cooperation with the clinic, organized a day seminar on "Faith and Mental Health - Research Results and Clinical Relevance". In 2008 the first and in 2010 the second European Conference on Religion, Spirituality and Health (ECRSH) took place. Five such conferences have taken place in the meantime.

Since then, "Religion and Health" research has been spreading to Europe and establishing itself in the Swiss context. The organization of numerous congresses and conferences as well as steady research and publication activities helped the Research Institute to become well connected nationally and internationally.

Development and Future Prospects

In recent years, the research institute has been successively developed. In 2012, the institute employed a research assistant for the first time. Since 2016, an additional staff member in administration has been complementing the research team, which has continuously been strengthened by freelance employees.

In the future, the focus will be on further expansion of the network, in-depth research activity within the competence area of the institute (eg evaluation of the national data on the "Doctors' Beliefs and Medical Practice" project). Parallel to this work, the RISH also wants to participate in new cooperation projects and to intensify its publication activities.