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Ann Fam Med. 2008 Sep-Oct;6(5):448-58. doi: 10.1370/afm.864.

The 3 H and BMSEST models for spirituality in multicultural whole-person medicine.

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Department of Family Medicine, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, Pawtucket, RI 02860, USA.



The explosion of evidence in the last decade supporting the role of spirituality in whole-person patient care has prompted proposals for a move to a biopsychosocial-spiritual model for health. Making this paradigm shift in today's multicultural societies poses many challenges, however. This article presents 2 theoretical models that provide common ground for further exploration of the role of spirituality in medicine.


The 3 H model (head, heart, hands) and the BMSEST models (body, mind, spirit, environment, social, transcendent) evolved from the author's 12-year experience with curricula development regarding spirituality and medicine, 16-year experience as an attending family physician and educator, lived experience with both Hinduism and Christianity since childhood, and a lifetime study of the world's great spiritual traditions. The models were developed, tested with learners, and refined.


The 3 H model offers a multidimensional definition of spirituality, applicable across cultures and belief systems, that provides opportunities for a common vocabulary for spirituality. Therapeutic options, from general spiritual care (compassion, presence, and the healing relationship), to specialized spiritual care (eg, by clinical chaplains), to spiritual self-care are discussed. The BMSEST model provides a conceptual framework for the role of spirituality in the larger health care context, useful for patient care, education, and research. Interactions among the 6 BMSEST components, with references to ongoing research, are proposed.


Including spirituality in whole-person care is a way of furthering our understanding of the complexities of human health and well-being. The 3 H and BMSEST models suggest a multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach based on universal concepts and a foundation in both the art and science of medicine.

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