Elliott Ingersoll Ph.D
Integral Psychotherapy, Coaching & Consulting
Spiritual Wellness Test

The Spiritual Wellness Inventory

Elliott Ingersoll

Copyright 1996 All Rights Reserved 

Users may download and use this test for personal exploration. Please read the instructions and introduction first and remember, a test is only as good as the reflection that follows it. Please contact me at ingersez@att.net with any questions.

The Creation of the Spiritual Wellness Inventory

The spiritual wellness inventory began as my doctoral dissertation (Ingersoll, 1995). At the time, I was very interested in developing a vocabulary for counselors to talk about spirituality with clients that wasn't necessarily religious. Throughout my career I have been inspired by figures like Joseph Campbell, Huston Smith, Ken Wilber, and Stanislav Grof all of whom have set forth the proposition that there are core spiritual values and experiences that transcend and unite religious expressions. I believed that a vocabulary that relied on such core values and experiences would facilitate an integration of spirituality into counseling sessions and counseling literature. This goal of infusion rested on the premise that, as Vaughan (1995) and others have stated, spirituality is a part of the human organism that may be nurtured in particular social institutions but, as such, does not derive from those institutions. As far as studying spirituality, there were some difficulties in operationalizing the term. As I noted in Ingersoll (1994), the etymological roots of the word spirit (including "ruach" in Hebrew, "pneuma" in Greek, and "spiritus" in Latin) all referred more to metaphors like courage, breath, wind, vigor, and life. Other researchers (Ellison, 1983; Moberg, 1971) resolved the problem through the construct spiritual well-being. Ellison noted that just as measures of physical well-being may be indices of underlying physical health, measures of spiritual well being could serve as indices of underlying spiritual health. One challenge then was to identify dimensions of spiritual well-being or what I have called spiritual wellness. Previous spiritual well-being scales (Elkins, 1986; Ellison & Paloutzian, 1982; Kass, et. al., 1991; Moberg, 1984; ) suffered from various shortcomings so I tried to address these in the construction of the Spiritual Wellness Inventory (SWI). I described in Ingersoll (1998) how I refined my initial dimensions of spiritual wellness. This phase of research made use of qualitative interviews with people who were, to some extent, leaders in eleven different spiritual traditions or paths. These interviews explored with each person how spiritual wellness would manifest in someone practicing their path. After summarizing the dimensions that came out in the interviews, I had panelists rate the dimensions and then help design items for each dimension. The result was a 10 dimensional, 88-item inventory that was given to 515 subjects and then explored through factor analysis. Based on the factor analysis, weaker items were dropped to shorten the scale that is now a 55-item scale. There are ten dimensions of spiritual wellness and a small fake-good scale derived from Reynolds (1982).


The Dimensions of Spiritual Wellness

            The dimensions of spiritual wellness addressed in the inventory are:

·         Conception of the Absolute/Divine: This may fit into the categories of monotheistic( Judaism, Islam, Christianity), deistic (belief in God on evidence of reason and nature only), atheistic, pantheistic (God in everything), or panentheistic (God in all things and transcending all things).  One's conception of the divine is expressed as a person's image or experience of divinity. With spiritual maturity, one also tends to view one's images as finite; more as symbols that point to the reality of the divine.  In esoteric practices, this conception may come second to experiences with what one considers being divine. Always be alert to psychological contamination of the conception that is more related to the person’s issues than God per se.

·         Meaning:  This is the individual sense that life is worth living. This can become an overwhelming question in times of crisis but is not limited to crisis.  Meaning can be an explicit sense of what it is that makes life meaningful or a sense of purpose. Meaning does not have to be explicit.  It may be simply a sense that pervades one's experiences. Many times meaning is expressed in being at peace with the question of meaning.

·         Connectedness: Connectedness can occur with other people, with God or that considered Divine, and with elements in the environment.  Relationships could be thought of as a recognizing and celebrating connectedness, as could religious ritual or ecological awareness. Connectedness should not be stereotyped as extraversion or liking to socialize. It is a deeper sense, a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging may be to a community, to the universe, or as an integrated, whole person.

·         Mystery: This dimension relates to how a person deals with ambiguity, the unexplained and the uncertainty of life.  This may be thought of as a person's capacity for awe and wonder.  In addition, this dimension should reflect a person's comfort level with awe and wonder. It is certainly a function of spiritual maturity too and may be a direct result of esoteric practices. Some exoteric paths may actually discourage mystery in practitioners.

·         Spiritual Freedom: This dimension is related to one's capacity for play, experience of life and the world as "safe," a sense of freedom from fear and desire in living, and one's willingness to make a commitment.  It includes the ability to "forget oneself" and all types of play like sexual play. Play and freedom are sincere but not serious. They are meaningful but not necessarily purposeful.

·         Experience/Ritual: This includes rituals that are a healthy part of a person's life and the experiences that accompany the behavior of carrying out the ritual.  A healthy ritual requires that the energy involved be directed toward an experience or activity.  It is proactive, not passive. This is important to differentiate meditation from something like watching television. The ritual often helps the person become present-centered, reconnect with others or the divine, and forge meaning in relation to life circumstances.

·         Forgiveness: This dimension reflects one's attitudes toward giving and receiving forgiveness.  Forgiveness is here described as a journey one embarks on with no guaranteed products/results. In total, it is willful process engaged in from both the giving and receiving ends combined with the “magic” that heals.  In this sense, the process may require considerable time.

·         Hope: This is the experience that one's suffering is not in vain or going to last forever.  Like one's sense of freedom, it too is an experience of, ultimately, feeling "safe" in life.  Hope is also expressed as faith that there is some reality to life that allows one to endure experiences of suffering.  Some people have said that loss of hope implies loss of faith in God in that the hopeless person is feigning omniscience by assuming they know that things will be bad forever and always.

·         Knowledge/Learning: A person possessing spiritual well being has an interest in increasing both knowledge of self and knowledge of things perceived as external to self.  This learning need not be defined by academic standards.  Learning and acquiring knowledge is welcomed despite the trials that may be experienced in the process.

·         Present-centeredness: Being able to be present in passing moments.  This is not a state that you could be in all the time.  When you are in this state, you can see what is going on around you. Ritual usually helps cultivate this. In the end, it is the ability to experience what is, to experience life (as Huston Smith says) point-blank. In contemplative traditions it is experienced as the only reality. The past is a thought, a memory and the future a thought, an anticipation. The eternal present is always, everywhere, everywhen

The Intended Use for the SWI

          One dynamic I am acutely aware of is the temptation to misuse numerically scored inventories. I am always having students ask me how "spiritually well" they are based on their score. I am always tempted to say something like "Ooh, you're a 23, that's bad. If only you were a 30 or a 32 there might be hope." Obviously such an answer would be my attempt at humor but we must be careful with such humor since, in our society, people ascribe power to numerical ratings that, in many cases, the ratings simply don't have. Although I recognize that I fueled this problem by using numbers in the subscales, I want to emphasize that the scale is designed to be a starting point for dialogue around spiritual issues. I encourage people using the scale to look at the relationships between the dimensions. As with any scale, the first step is to ask yourself how well the ratings match your sense of yourself. If you were using the inventory with a client, you may find the results deviate a great deal from the client's sense of their own spiritual wellness. If that is the case it is far more productive to begin the discussion along the lines of the client's sense of self rather than how the inventory reflected that sense of self. When I have used the SWI with clients, I usually ask them "what stands out the most for you?" Most of the time they will comment on a dimension where their score is particularly low. We are usually able to dialogue a bit about what that means to them. If the client doesn’t mention the dimensions where their score is high, I will bring those up. Typically they reflect significant aspects of the client's support system that can be used throughout the counseling relationship. Following is a case summary using the SWI dimensions so readers can get a sense of how these could be used in their own explorations and, if the reader is a clinician, in exploration with clients.

Ed was a 29-year-old, single, Caucasian male seeking counseling for what appeared to be Dysthymia. Ed seems to recall always having a low-grade depression that he was more aware of since his last relationship ended with his partner calling him "a constant downer." Ed visited his primary care physician who prescribed a regimen of antidepressant medication (Paroxetine, 20mg a day) and recommended he supplement that with counseling. In our initial sessions Ed described how his life felt "cardboard" and how he rarely felt any enthusiasm. During our first three sessions Ed revealed how in college he had abandoned an early interest in philosophy for "a more pragmatic" major in business. Although Ed held a good job (managing marketing for an industrial supply firm) his heart wasn't in it (but as noted, he felt his heart wasn't in anything). Ed was also interested in theology and comparative religion. He said he had been questioning the meaning of life pretty intensely since his girlfriend left him early that year. He said if he were a religious person, he might be said to be having a crisis of faith. I recalled how Scott Peck (1978) once wrote how therapists should find out their client's religion - even if the client said they didn't have one and asked Ed if he would take the SWI. He actually showed enthusiasm for the idea and took the inventory. The first thing Ed noticed about his results is that the "meaning" and "mystery" dimensions were quite low while the others hovered around 20 points. In exploring the inventory, Ed conspicuously avoided discussing the mystery dimension and kept directing the dialogue to the meaning dimension. Toward the end of the session, I commented that I was curious about this dynamic since he had also commented on the  "mystery" dimension as a low score. To this Ed became perturbed and asked if I had any expert insights he should be privy to. Sensing I had "touched a nerve" I backed off and said "no, I was just curious." In our next session Ed noted that he really was upset by the low score on "mystery." He went on to explain that all the fights with his ex-girlfriend had been because she thought he didn't take enough risks in life. He was beginning to think she was right. The next two months were spent exploring various periods of Ed's life where he had "taken the safe route" including his college major. Key to the events were the irrational thoughts Ed cultivated about himself because of the choices he had made. We realized that a great deal of his mood disturbance was fueled by these thoughts ("I'm a loser," "I'm not an alpha male - I'm an omega male"). Since Ed experienced some relief from the antidepressant, he had more energy to begin re-making his self-concept through learning how to dispute his irrational thoughts and reexamining the role of mystery and ambiguity in taking risks.

Following is the actual SWI. You may take it if you wish and self score it with the materials provided here. The demographics and descriptive statistics are included toward the end of the appendix if you wish to compare your scores to a samples' scores. Remember that the main goal of the inventory is to begin dialogue around spiritual issues with a trans-traditional vocabulary. There is still much research that needs to be done on the reliability and validity of the inventory in order to make it psychometrically sound.


The Spiritual Wellness Inventory

Elliott Ingersoll, Ph.D., PCC

Please respond to the following items choosing a number from the scale provided that indicates the degree to which you agree or disagree with each item. Mark the number you select in the blank beside each item number.




Strongly                                                                                                          Strongly

Disagree                                   Disagree           Agree                                     Agree


1               2          3                 4                      5                 6              7               8


1.      I don't ever experience God's presence in my life.                                        1

2.      The meaning of life is a question I am at peace with.                                     2

3.      I never feel compassion for other people.                                                    3

4.      I often feel a deep appreciation of every moment.                                        4

5.      I never experience a sense of awe about life.                                               5

6.      I have things I do to help me feel connected to life.                                      6

7.      There are reasons to give up hope.                                                              7

8.      I feel called on to forgive others as God forgives me.                                   8

9.      I reject most challenges to my beliefs.                                                          9

10.  I believe all people have a role in the web of life                                           10

11.  I feel unsafe in the world                                                                             11

12.  My sense of the divine increases my sense of

Connectedness to other people                                                                   12

13. I never experience my everyday life as meaningful                                        13

14. I feel part of at least on healthy community that is

      important to me and greatly affects my life.                                                  14

15. I don't enjoy being absorbed in physical sensations                                      15

16. Life is about growth and change                                                                  16

17. I don't know what to do to feel God's presence                                           17

18. Even when situations seem hopeless, I have faith

      they can change for the better.                                                                     18

19. If I forgive others, it really doesn't help me                                                   19

20. The way I live brings me to a greater knowledge of

      who I really am.                                                                                          20

21. I am a strict person insisting on doing things as

     correctly as possible.                                                                                   21

22. I experience playful moments daily                                                              22

23. I never experience a strong inner sense of

     God's presence.                                                                                           23

24. I always reflect on the meaning of my life experiences                                  24

25. I don't feel a part of any real community.                                                     25

26. I often feel fully present in each passing moment.                                          26

27. I am afraid to question my spiritual beliefs.                                                   27

28. I see everyday life as sacred.                                                                      28

29. I have little faith that on some level my life

     will work out.                                                                                              29

30. I have often been forgiven by others in my life.                                             30

31. I don't investigate questions that arise in my life.                                           31

32. I have periods where it is hard to stop self-pity.                                           32

33. I feel coerced by images of what life should be about.                                  33

34. I am conscious of the divine in my daily activities                                          34

35. I don't get much meaning out of my life experiences                                     35

36. I often notice things in nature while I am riding or

     walking from place to place.                                                                         36

37. When I attain a goal I don't savor it before moving on

      to the next goal.                                                                                          37

38. Ambiguity and uncertainty are healthy parts of life.                                       38

39. I have not developed new spiritual rituals

     as I have grown.                                                                                          39

40. Every moment offers potential for hope.                                                      40

41. I have resentments about  past injuries                                                         41

42. The more I learn about myself the more I have to give                                  42

43. I would rather mix with polite people than

      rebellious types.                                                                                          43

44. I feel free to make strong commitments to things.                                         44

45. My sense of God decreases my sense of connectedness

      to nature.                                                                                                    45

46. My spirituality is very meaningful to me.                                                       46

47. My spiritual community isn't much help in

      celebrating life.                                                                                            47

48. I don't get tense thinking of things that lie ahead.                                          48

49. It is important to be in control of the sitations in which

      I find myself.                                                                                               49

50. I have rituals that help me integrate the spiritual into

      my life.                                                                                                       50

51. I have not had difficult situations change for the better                                  51

52. I am able to forgive anything a person may do.                                            52

53. I value knowledge except when it conflicts with

      my beliefs.                                                                                                  53

54. I wait until I am sure that my views are correct before

      speaking up.                                                                                               54

55. I feel great pressure to live up to a social image.                                           55

Scoring the SWI


1.      Reverese the ratings for all odd-numbered items so the new numerals match the following key: 8=1, 7=2, 6=3, 5=4, 4=5, 3=6, 2=7, 1=8


Example: Your rating for an odd-numbered item is a "4." According to the key, the rating would be transformed to a "5."


2.      Enter corrected odd-numbered values on the blanks next to each item on the inventory.


3.      Enter all response values, even-numbered and corrected odd-numbered, on the response grid below. Next, total the numbers across each row for the dimension totals.


1.          12.             23.              34.               45.             TOTAL            Conception of Divinity


2.          13.             24.             35.               46.               TOTAL          Meaning


3.          14.             25.             36.                47.             TOTAL            Connectedness


4.          15.             26.             37.                48.             TOTAL            Present-Centeredness


5.          16.             27.             38.                49.             TOTAL            Mystery


6.          17.             28.             39.               50.                          TOTAL            Ritual


7.          18.             29.             40.               51.                          TOTAL            Hope


8.          19.             30.             41.               52.                          TOTAL            Forgiveness


9.          20.             31.             42.               53.                          TOTAL            Knowledge/Learning


10.         21.            32.             43.               54.                          TOTAL            Fake Good


11.         22.             33.             44.               55 .             TOTAL            Spiritual Freedom



Now, using the SWI profile sheet, enter the dimension totals (row totals) on the profile sheet line matching the dimension total you are recording. There is no "total" score since the dimensions overlap quite a bit.







Spiritual Wellness Inventory

Profile Sheet

Elliott Ingersoll, Ph.D., PCC









                                                Forgiveness                    40                                                  Hope


                                                        40                              30


                                                                30                      20


                                                                     20                 10                                 

                                                                                                                    10                                        Mystery

Conception of                                                10                                                                         40

Divinity                                                                                                                            30

                                40                                                                                            20

                                                30                                                                10


                                                                                10                            10

                                                                                 10                                           20

                                                                   20                                                                         30

Spiritual Freedom                       30                           10                         10                                              40       

                                         40                                                      10                                                                         Meaning

                                                                            20                                        20   


                                                                      30                                                      30


                                                                40                                                                  40

                                Connectedness                                       40                                        























AGE:                       18-21=12%








                                76 and over=1%



Reform Jewish                      2%

Orthodox Jewish                  1%

Catholic Christian                                32%

Protestant Christian                             34%

Other Christian                     1%

Pagan                                                     0%

Buddhist                                                4%

Baha'i'                                                     1%

Latter Day Saints                 2%

Transpersonal                                      10%

Yoga practitioner                 3%

Marital Artist                                        3%

Dead Head                                            3%

Sufi/Muslim                                          1%

Native American                  1%



African-American                                4%

Asian-American                   1%

European-American                             90%

Latino/Latina                                       1%         

Native-American                  2%


EDUCATION: Highest Level Attained

High school                                          5%

2 year college                                        2%

some college                                         18%

bachelor's degree                 40%

master's degree                     28%

doctoral degree                    3%

post-doctoral degree                           1%


Weekly Estimated Hours of TV Watched:

0-5                                        37%

6-10                                     28%

11-15                                  14%

16-20                                  7%

21-25                                  2%

26-30                                  2%

31-35                                  2%

36 +                         1%



Revised Mean (rounded)

Conception of Divinity



















Spiritual Freedom





                Ellison, C. W. (1983). Spiritual well-being: Conceptualization and measurement. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 11 330-340.

                Ellison, C. W., & Paloutzian, R. F. (1982). Loneliness, spiritual well-being, and quality of life. In L. A. Peplar & D. Perlman (Eds) Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research, and therapy. New York: Wiley.

                Elkins, D. N. (1986). Spiritual Orientation Inventory. Unpublished work. Irvine, CA: Pepperdine University Center.

                Ingersoll, R. E. (1994). Spirituality, religion, and counseling: Dimensions and relationships. Counseling and Values, 38, 98-112.

                Ingersoll, R. E. (1995). Construction and initial validation of the spiritual wellness inventory. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Kent State University.

                Ingersoll, R. E. (1998). Refining dimensions of spiritual wellness: A cross-traditional approach. Counseling and Values, 42, 156-165.

                Kass, J., Friedman, R., Leserman, J., Zuttermeister, P, & Benson, H. (1991). Health outcomes and a new index of spiritual experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 30, 203-211.

                Moberg, D. O. (1971). Spiritual well-being: Background. Washington, DC: University Press of America.

                Moberg, D. O. (1984). Subjective measures of spiritual well-being. Review of Religious Research, 25, 351-364.

Reynolds, W. M. (1982). Development of reliable and valid short forms of the Marlowe-Crown social desirability scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 38, 119-125.

Vaughan, F. (1995). Shadows of the sacred: Seeing through spiritual illusions. Wheaton, IL: Quest.

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