BACKGROUND: Spiritual/religious coping (SRC), little studied in Brazil, is associated to health and quality of life (QoL). OBJECTIVES: To present a literature review about spiritual/religious coping, focusing its theoretical background, assessment and clinical applications. METHODS: Research on Medline, PsycINFO, Scielo and Bireme/BVS databases between 1979-2006. RESULTS: The SRC is the use of religion, spirituality or faith to cope with stress. SRC methods, depending on the consequences that bring to those who use them, can be classified into positive or negative, generally associated to better or worse physical/mental health and QoL outcomes, respectively. Evidences show that people use SRC especially in crisis situations, and also, they use more positive than negative SRC. There are five SRC styles: self-directing, collaborative, deferring, pleading and surrender. CONCLUSIONS: Instruments as RCOPE and SRCOPE Scale can be helpful to patient’s spiritual evaluation, to researches and for planning psychospiritual interventions focused on the SRC process. Those can be effective in helping patients to better use an important available resource, with high impact on population’s health and QoL, and potential to reduce public health costs. So, SRC studies would deserve to be included in health professionals graduate courses.
Spiritual coping; religious coping; health; quality of life; professional practice