The Issue of Psychiatric Treatment and The Fundamentally Religious
Psychiatry and religion are often thought of as existing at polar opposite ends of the spectrum, thanks in some part to some past psychiatrists being dismissive or downright antagonistic to organized religion. Meanwhile, the church has not always been accepting of mental illness as a legitimate medical and emotional condition.
In some ways, it may seem like the gap is widening in some areas. I’ve personally heard Christians advocate going to church in favor of a psychiatrist. It seems there is a fear that psychologists might impose secular values under the guise of mental health treatment, and some psychiatrists appear to think devout religion hinders mental health in certain situations.
Simply put, there’s a boundary problem and both sides may be at fault to some extent. Medscape Today explored the difficulties and even spats of antagonism between psychiatry and the more fundamentally religious and it paints a striking image of exactly how the two areas still come into conflict today.
Secular psychiatrists dealing with patients who are struggling with internal conflict between personal feelings and religion can do as much damage as forcing religion onto the person as a catch all solution, especially in complex and controversial issues such as homosexuality, abortion, and premarital sex.
The church may attempt to downright stifle these issues not allowing complete resolution, while a psychiatrist may try to push a the person away from the “negative” source in his life, ignoring all the other emotional and spiritual support the church offers.
There doesn’t have to be the deep divide between psychiatry and even the more conservative religious people though. There are a number of Christian psychologists out there who understand the special perspectives and beliefs of the religious and understand the need to work around their pre-existing beliefs, as well as non-religious or followers of other traditions that can comprehend the complex relationships between mental health and faith and properly help a patient or refer them to a better suited psychiatrist.