Can spirituality help people with mental health problems?
Written by Lydia D’Ross, Ordained Minister and Outreach Chaplain for Renewal at Brookhaven Hospital
Spirituality can help followers deal with mental distress and allows a foundation to promote a healthy overall well-being.
Many years ago, individuals were not allowed to receive spiritual care counseling in conjunction with mental health psychotherapy. In fact, there probably were not many Christian therapists available- as they are now.
A Systematic review from the Journal of Traumatic Stress concluded that “…religion and spirituality are highly valuable to people in times of crisis, trauma and grief.” [Weaver, A. J., L. T. Flannelly, J. Garbarino, C. R. Figley, and K. J. Flannelly, 2003, A systematic review of research on religion and spirituality in the Journal of Traumatic Stress : 1990-1999: Mental Health, Religion & Culture, v. 6, no. 3, p. 215-228.]
Spirituality relies on faith to carry the individual through as they learn new coping strategies to work out their problems. However, in some cases, if individuals had bad experiences within their belief system, spirituality and mental health techniques can be a bit more challenging for the therapist. Therefore, we would want to tread lightly in those cases.
Many psychiatrists now believe that religion and spirituality are important in the life of their patients. As I mentioned before, the importance of spirituality in mental health is now widely accepted
D’Souza names four key areas towards his new psychotherapeutic method called “Spirituality Augmented Cognitive Behavior Therapy “ (SACBT). Those are: Acceptance, Hope, Achieving Meaning and Purpose. [D’Souza RF. Spiritually augmented cognitive behavior therapy[SACB]Australas Psychiatry. 2004;12:148–52. ]
Leavy and King reported that a partnership between clergy and psychotherapist will continue to grow. [. Leavey G, King M. The devil in the detail: partnership between psychiatry and faith based organizations. Br J Psychiatry.2007;191:97–8.
In my experience as a community Chaplin, the challenges can be that some spiritual leaders’ belief systems would not allow their parishioners to seek mental health services. This is due to lack of knowledge and understanding between spiritual care and mental health.
For it was Christ that traveled often with his physician, Luke, and Luke was called the “physician of souls.” God allows science to work with faith to provide an alternative healing method.