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By On March 20th, 2012

Mental Treatment Likely More Effective when Coupled with Patients’ Spiritual Beliefs

A psychologist’s understanding of deeply held spiritual beliefs can be integral in developing an effective treatment for patients with behavioral health conditions. Though there are many psychologists who view religion as a taboo subject that should be left off the table during treatment, the fact is that many patients cannot separate their spirituality from other aspects of their life. When patients view their life through a religious lens, it can be difficult to segment off their religious beliefs during therapy.

There are an increasing number of mental health professionals who view religion as part of a greater picture. Religious beliefs, like familial relationships and daily stimuli, must be taken into account when examining a patient’s life.

Doctoral student Bronwyn Clark is hoping to shed light on the relationship between psychology and spirituality. She is conducting a survey of people who sought public or private mental health services. She hopes to evaluate the extent to which a patient’s spiritual beliefs were incorporated into their treatment by counselors, psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists.

Ms. Clark, who is herself a practicing Christian, sees religion as a powerful force in people’s lives, capable of catalyzing positive as well as negative changes. Clark hopes to start a conversation about the fact that psychologists too often sweep religion under the rug. She cites an overseas study which claims that up to 79% of those in mental health treatment consider spirituality or their religious beliefs to be an important factor in their lives, while only 21% of psychologists view religion as important.

According to Bronwyn Clark, “Religion is not some kind of add-on. It’s a fundamental part of who a person is, it colors everything. To ignore or neglect this creates major limitations to therapy. Spiritual and religious concerns are intimately connected with mental health in numerous ways that can be considered to both help and hinder.”

For people who have strong religious beliefs, it’s important to find a treatment center where those beliefs and values can be respected and discussed openly. It’s important to find an environment where counselors and therapists can be sensitive to your beliefs and are not afraid to address difficult spiritual questions.

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