Spiritual and Mental Health

Until the early 19th century, psychiatry and religion were closely connected. Religious institutions were responsible for the care of the mentally ill. A major change occurred when Freud associated religion with hysteria and neurosis. This created a divide between religion and mental health care, which has continued until recently. Psychiatry has a long tradition of dismissing and attacking religious experience. Religion has often been seen by mental health professionals in Western societies as irrational, outdated, and dependency forming and has been viewed to result in emotional instability.

In 1980, Albert Ellis, the founder of rational emotive therapy, (REBT), wrote in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology that there was an irrefutable relationship between religion and emotional and mental illness.

Psychiatrists are generally less religious than their patients and, therefore, they have not valued the role of religious factors in helping patients effectively deal with their illnesses.  It is only in the past few years that attitudes toward religion have changed among mental health professionals. In 1994, “religious or spiritual problems” was introduced as a new diagnostic category that invited professionals to respect the patient’s beliefs and rituals. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in research into religion, spirituality, and mental health. A literature search before 2000 identified 724 studies, and since that time, research in this area has increased dramatically. The evidence suggests that, on balance, spiritual involvement is generally conducive to better mental health. In addition, patients with psychiatric disorders frequently use a spiritual component, or connection to God, to more effectively deal with their distress.

In recent studies, at least 50% of psychiatrists interviewed endorse the view that it is appropriate to inquire about their patients’ spiritual lives. That patients’ spiritual and religious concerns have been taken seriously is evidenced by the fact that the American Psychiatric Association has issued practice guidelines regarding conflicts between psychiatrists’ personal religious beliefs and psychiatric practice. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education includes in its psychiatric training requirement, didactic and clinical instruction on religion and spirituality in psychiatric care. – Psychiatric Times

Just today I conferred with a psychologist that I referred a client to, to augment my counseling work with them. There were clear signs that their depression may have reached a critical stage and that we needed to add a psychological component in their particular case. These areas include issues such as suicidal tendencies, clinical depression, dissociation, certain anxiety disorders, and more. More than ever before, treatment models call for a “both-and ” approach. Reason being, is that as the psychological community discounted religion and spirituality, religious and spiritual counselors and therapists have equally discounted the psychological community. I reality, both have valuable elements that can help us to treat people with the best possible and responsible care.

The content published is for informational purposes. The content included in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in our material.

The resources provided are not designed to practice medicine or give professional medical advice, including, without limitation, medical direction concerning someone’s medical and mental or spiritual health. Any resources given are not to be considered complete and does not cover all issues related to mental, spiritual, and physical health. In addition, any information given should not replace consultation with your doctor or any other mental health providers and/or specialists.

BH/ Psychiatric Times

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