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Spirituality, secularity and religion in psychiatric practice: Commentary on … Spirituality and religion in psychiatric practice

  • Christopher C. H. Cook (a1)
Summary

Spirituality and religion, in our secular age, are subject to what Charles Taylor calls ‘closed world structures’ which make disbelief in transcendence appear incontrovertible when in fact, rationally speaking, it is not. It is arguably an effect of these closed world structures on psychiatric practice that excludes from the clinical consultation spiritual matters which patients themselves wish to discuss with their psychiatrist. In fact, the evidence base suggests that spirituality and religion should be routinely assessed in psychiatric practice and that the possible beneficial influence on outcome of spiritual practices and faith communities should be considered when formulating treatment plans.

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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.
Corresponding author
Christopher C. H. Cook (c.c.h.cook@durham.ac.uk)
Footnotes
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See special article, pp. 190–193, this issue.

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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1 King, M, Leavey, G. Spirituality and religion in psychiatric practice: why all the fuss? Psychiatrist 2010; 34: 190–4.
2 Taylor, C. A Secular Age. Belknap, 2007.
3 Cook, CCH. Addiction and spirituality. Addiction 2004; 99: 539–51.
4 Mackey, JP. The Critique of Theological Reason. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
5 Leavey, G, Loewenthal, K, King, M. Challenges to sanctuary: the clergy as a resource for mental health care in the community. Soc Sci Med 2007; 65: 548–59.
6 Lewis, CA, Breslin, MJ, Dein, S. Prayer and mental health: an introduction to this special issue of Mental Health, Religion and Culture. Ment Health Relig Cult 2008; 11: 17.
7 Sloan, RP, Bagiella, E, Powell, T. Religion, spirituality, and medicine. Lancet 1999; 353: 664–7.
8 Shuman, JJ, Meador, KG. Heal Thyself: Spirituality, medicine, and the Distortion of Christianity. Oxford University Press, 2003.
9 Huguelet, P, Koenig, HG (eds). Religion and Spirituality in Psychiatry. Cambridge University Press, 2009.
10 Cook, C, Powell, A, Sims, A (eds). Spirituality and Psychiatry. RCPsych Publications, 2009.
11 Casey, P. The Psycho-Social Benefits of Religious Practice. Iona Institute, 2009.
12 Cox, JL. Psychiatry and religion: a general psychiatrist's perspective. Psychiatr Bull 1994; 18: 673–6.
13 Sims, A. ‘Psyche’ – spirit as well as mind? Br J Psychiatry 1994; 165: 441–6.
14 Culliford, L, Eagger, S. Assessing spiritual needs. In Spirituality and Psychiatry (eds Cook, C, Powell, A, Sims, A): 1638. RCPsych Publications,, 2009.
15 Committee on Religion and Psychiatry. Guidelines regarding possible conflict between psychiatrists' religious commitments and psychiatric practice. Am J Psychiatry 1990; 147: 542.
16 Koenig, HG. Religion and mental health: what should psychiatrists do? Psychiatr Bull 2008; 32: 201–3.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 1758-3209
  • EISSN: 1758-3217
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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Spirituality, secularity and religion in psychiatric practice: Commentary on … Spirituality and religion in psychiatric practice

  • Christopher C. H. Cook (a1)
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eLetters

Debating Common Ground and Recognising Differences

Christopher C.H. Cook, Professorial Research Fellow
25 May 2010

It is good to discover that Michael King, Gerard Leavey and I share more common ground than I had at first perceived based on my reading of their special article “Spirituality and Religion in Psychiatric Practice”(1). Perhaps a part of the problem was that I only saw the abstract after publication and that what I had interpreted as ambivalence towards spirituality in the main body of the article is now set in the context of the clear and positive statement regarding spirituality that the abstract provides.

However, it seems that we do have a different reading of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age(2) and also probably hold different views of exactly what spirituality is. To explore these differences in academic debate seems to me to be a healthy thing, and this is why I was pleased toaccept an invitation from the editor to write a commentary on their special article. I would never wish to “control discourse about psychiatryand religion” but I am glad to participate in a lively and critical debateabout a subject that psychiatry has too long ignored and at times even denied.

Christopher C.H.CookProfessorial Research FellowDurham University

1.King M, Leavey G. Spirituality and Religion in Psychiatric Practice: Why all the Fuss? The Psychiatrist. 2010;34:190-3.

2.Taylor C. A Secular Age. Cambridge: Belknap; 2007.
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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Wide of the mark

Michael King, Professor of Psychiatry
20 May 2010

It would seem that the basis for Christopher Cook’s objection to our paper is our perspective on Charles Taylor’s theory of the rise of secularity in the modern world (1). In doing so, he provides a skewed analysis of what we were actually saying. Taylor’s work was helpful to us in considering psychiatry’s attitude to religion. However, our main aim was to suggest that despite our deeply materialist age a sense of transcendentmeaning was of great value to human beings and had never been lost. In this at least he seems to agree with us. We were invited by the editor towrite a response to Harold Koenig’s interesting suggestion that psychiatrists might pray with their patients (2). In doing so we took thestance that a focus on the practice of praying with patients was distracting attention from the far greater issue of spirituality and meaning in people’s lives. Cook appears to think we are against a thoughtful consideration of religion in psychiatry when that was never thecase. He has missed our irony completely. One particular peer reviewer of our article had strikingly similar attitudes and forced our commentary through three revisions before he or she could accept it. The whole unhappy experience has made us worry about the increasing defensiveness ofsome religious psychiatrists in the Royal College who appear to want to control discourse about psychiatry and religion. This should concern us all.

Cook C C H. Spirituality, secularity and religion in psychiatric practice: Commentary on... Spirituality and religion in psychiatric practice. The Psychiatrist 2010; 34:193-195.

Koenig H. Religion and mental health: what should psychiatrists do? Psychiatric Bulletin, 32, 201 -203.
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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