The U’s Center for Spirituality & Healing


    Second in a series on Integrative Healing in the Twin Cities

    The Center for Spirituality & Healing (CSH) at the University of Minnesota is a pioneering leader and resource in complementary healing practices, with a mission to transform the health care industry through educating health professionals and students, collaborating with innovative community partners, conducting rigorous scientific research and empowering consumers. The center opened in 1995, and its goal today remains the same as it did then: to transform health care.

    Eighty percent of the health professionals in the state are educated at the University of Minnesota. As part of the University, CSH is in a unique position to utilize cross-disciplinary faculty from twelve academic units, bringing together diverse offerings and approaches to health care education.

    In 1999, they launched a graduate minor in complementary therapies and healing practices with a few courses and 32 students. Today, 500 students each semester are choosing from a palette of more than 40 course offerings. The graduate minor continues, and is joined by additional options of post-baccalaureate graduate certificates and continuing education options.

    The graduate program has led to some exciting partnerships. For example, the course on Optimal Healing Environments draws both architecture/design students, as well as health professional students. CSH continues to see students from all parts of the university enroll in their courses, ranking them among the largest graduate programs on campus. Yet amazingly, some people in the university system still do not know they exist.

    The overall belief in integrative medicine coursework at the University of Minnesota is that all graduates – physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals – should acquire enough knowledge about integrative approaches to communicate with patients about the practices they are using, as well as to develop the skills to work effectively within an interdisciplinary team that includes a wide range of practitioners.

    Health coaching
    As a leader in reforming health care, since 2005 CSH has offered educational programming in Health Coaching, a fairly new health-care approach that has evolved over the last decade. It uses general coaching principles and practices that have proven successful to help individuals achieve change in health beliefs and behaviors.

    Dr. Karen Lawson, program director for Health Coaching at the University of Minnesota, is a collaborating pioneer in the defining and development of national credentialing in this new field. She says health coaching is a new health profession that is poised to make significant contributions to health care reform efforts.

    For decades, health care has focused on providing the right information. Unfortunately, while information is important, it alone does not lead to behavior change. The Health Coach trained with a specific skill set and understanding of behavior change and integrative health options can act as the link between the other health care providers and the client. Through a holistic perspective, the Health Coach is able to assist the client in taking charge of their own health. For example, a client comes in to quit smoking. A Health Coach would provide an overview of issues that may be at the core of why the client smokes in the first place. By identifying core issues, increasing client awareness and supporting the client in developing his or her own plan, there is a higher success rate for changing behaviors.

    Besides teaching Health Coaching at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Lawson is collaborating with several local organizations, including third-party payers, employee benefits companies, corporations, and health and fitness centers. A number of these innovative companies are working with The Center for Spirituality & Healing on research, staff skills development, internship training and the development of health coaching within their organizations. Further information on Health Coaching educational opportunities can be found at

    Other community clinical collaborations involving CSH include partnerships in sustainable health care with Hennepin Integrative Health Services on education, research and integrated programs. CSH also is involved with developing integrative clinical models of health care such as those at Woodwinds Hospital and Anna Westin House.

    Research and outreach
    The Center for Spirituality & Healing is actively involved with basic science, clinical trials and health services research. In 2004, the National Institute of Health (NIH) designated CSH as one of three Developmental Centers for Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the nation, and to date, CSH conducts NIH-funded, evidence-based research. For more detailed information, go to, and find all of the research documents, past and ongoing.

    In celebration of the Center’s 15-year anniversary, the center has launched a new website, “Taking Charge of Your Health” (, a free, interactive tool designed to help consumers create a healthy lifestyle, navigate the health care system and explore healing practices. In addition to the website, CSH produces programs, workshops and lectures geared to the general public. For example, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction series is a partnership program with the Mayo Clinic. It is offered by the Center on the University campus, in corporate settings, at The Marsh and other local facilities. Details on this program and many others may be found on the CSH website.

    The Center of Spirituality & Healing continues to lead the way in educating the next generation of medical professionals, exploring new approaches for health through research and clinical models, as well as trying to assist people in assuming more personal responsibility for their health, health care and well-being. Focusing on health and well-being is a fundamental part of a new health care system, and consumers have the power of demand, which is critical to the development of integrative medicine in our existing system.

    The more often a doctor hears that clients want access to complementary therapies, the more curious and willing they are to be educated. Case in point, the office of Alternative Medicine was started in Washington, D.C., in 1993 as a result of the largest letter writing campaign in the nation’s history, a grassroots demand for a change in health care. So, keep asking your doctor for what you want to assist in your healing. Your voice makes a difference.

    University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing is located at the Academic Health Center Mayo Memorial Building, 420 Delaware St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455. For more information, visit or call 612.624.9459.

    Next month: An in-depth look at Hennepin Integrative Health Services.

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