Researchers in the US compared the effects of a nondenominational spiritual retreat on depression and well-being following acute coronary syndrome — chest pain and other symptoms when the heart doesn’t get enough blood.

First, the details.

  • 15 patients were assigned to a treatment group for 4 days.
    • Medicine for the Earth (MFTE): Guided imagery, meditation, drumming, journal writing, and nature-based activities
    • Lifestyle Change Program (LCP): Nutrition education, exercise, and stress management
    • Usual cardiac care
  • Both treatment groups received follow-up phone coaching biweekly for 3 months.
  • Self-reported depression, spiritual well-being, perceived stress, and hope were collected before, immediately post-retreat, and at 3 and 6 months.

And, the results.

  • There was no significant difference in depression between the groups at the start of the study.
  • The MFTE group had significantly lower depression scores at all follow-up times.
  • Hope significantly improved among MFTE participants, and persisted at the 3- and 6-month follow-up.
  • Although several measures showed improvement in all groups by 6 months, the MFTE group had immediate improvement post-retreat, which was maintained.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “A nondenominational spiritual retreat, MFTE, can be used to increase hope while reducing depression in patients with acute coronary syndrome.”

With only 15 patients studied, it’s difficult to come to any conclusions regarding any of the treatments.

Also, follow-up phone call to the MFTE and not the usual care group may have influenced the results between these group.

8/3/11 20:40 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.