In Spirituality and Psychological Health authors Cox, Erwin-Cox, and Hoffman observe, "Undeniably, religion is a reliable source of comfort, hope, and inspiration. It provides meaning and purpose to life, helps people make sense of their suffering, and empowers people to endure even the most challenging circumstances. Religious involvement is also linked to positive physical and mental health. Research studies consistently find that active religious involvement promotes primary and secondary prevention of physical and psychological impairment. For instance, frequent church attendance is negatively correlated with immune system deficiency… People who consistently participate in religious activities and communities may delay the onset of physical disability… and may reduce the mortality rate by 25%… Religious involvement may also safeguard mental health. Individuals who actively exercise their beliefs are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and lifestyle, such as substance abuse, domestic violence, promiscuity, and criminal activities. They tend to have stable marriages, healthy lifestyles, and supportive social relationships. They also experience greater well-being, higher life satisfaction, and less anxiety than their counterpart… Needless to say, there are also negative effects associated with religion, particularly among religious groups that are repressive, controlling, insular, and prejudicial…
…The demand for mental health practitioners with spiritual and religious experience, interests, or background is undeniable. However, the response to this call is generally lukewarm, if not apathetic. For instance, less than one third of practitioners in the filed responded in a survey stating that they would incorporate religious matters as a part of their treatment plan… In general practitioners are skeptical in discussing religious issues in therapy; many are reluctant to explore or address religious topics with their clients. Even when religious issues are brought up in the session, practitioners may tend to be oblivious about the subject matter. Some may downplay its significance in clients’ lives…”
It's my belief that training in how to most effectively and respectfully address both religious and spiritual issues is essential for all mental health professionals.
I'll be writing more about this in future blogs.