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Religion and mental health: what should psychiatrists do?

  • Harold G. Koenig (a1)
Extract

Religious beliefs and practices of patients have long been thought to have a pathological basis and psychiatrists for over a century have understood them in this light. Recent research, however, has uncovered findings which suggest that to some patients religion may also be a resource that helps them to cope with the stress of their illness or with dismal life circumstances. What are psychiatrists doing with this new information? How is it affecting their clinical practices? Studies of psychiatrists in the UK, Canada and the USA suggest that there remains widespread prejudice against religion and little integration of it into the assessment or care of patients. In this paper I discuss a range of interventions that psychiatrists should consider when treating patients, including taking a spiritual history, supporting healthy religious beliefs, challenging unhealthy beliefs, praying with patients (in highly selected cases) and consultation with, referral to, or joint therapy with trained clergy (Koenig, 2007). Religion is an important psychological and social factor that may serve either as a powerful resource for healing or be intricately intertwined with psychopathology.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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Curlin, F. A., Odell, S.V., Lawrence, R. E., et al (2007a) The relationship between psychiatry and religion among US physicians. Psychiatric Services, 58, 11931198.
Curlin, F. A., Lawrence, R. E., Odell, S., et al (2007b). Religion, spirituality, and medicine: psychiatrists' and other physicians' differing observations, interpretations, and clinical approaches. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 18251831.
Freud, S. (1927) Future of an illusion. In (1962) Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (ed. & transl. Strachey, J.). Hogarth Press.
Koenig, H. G., McCullough, M. E. & Larson, D. B. (2001) Handbook of Religion and Health, pp. 514554, Oxford University Press.
Koenig, H. G. (2007) Spirituality in Patient Care (2nd edn). pp.161174, Templeton Foundation Press.
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Larson, D. B., Thielman, S. B., Greenwold, M. A., et al (1993) Religious content in the DSM–III–R glossary of technical terms. American Journal of Psychiatry, 150, 18841885.
Lawrence, R. M., Head, J., Christodoulou, G., et al (2007) Clinician's attitudes to spirituality in old age psychiatry. International Psychogeriatrics, 19, 962973.
Neeleman, J. & King, M. B. (1993) Psychiatrists' religious attitudes in relation to their clinical practice: a survey of 231 psychiatrists. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 88, 420424.
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World Christian Database (2007) Atheists/Nonreligious by Country. (http://worldchristiandatabase.org/wcd/).
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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Religion and mental health: what should psychiatrists do?

  • Harold G. Koenig (a1)
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