“…higher levels of belief in God were associated with greater psychological well-being,” reports PsychCentral professional blog on a study about belief in God and treatment outcomes.
“Religious affiliation (eg, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish) had no impact on treatment response, and neither belief in God nor religious affiliation were correlated with the level of symptoms prior to treatment; in other words, belief in God did not “protect” against more severe psychiatric symptoms.”
It was belief in God in general that showed improved treatment outcomes.
I’m not surprised.
However, while talk about spirituality and God often play a central role in addiction treatment, in mental health therapies such as talk therapy, for the most part, discussion of faith remain off the table.
This is a shame.
Everything from prayer to religious service attendance to community activities are informed by a person’s belief and faith in God or lack thereof. Certainly, so are questions of morality, views on relationships and family, work ethic, and leisure activities. In Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On I discuss how important it is to find a therapist who accepts and supports your religious and spiritual beliefs, whether or not they hold them.
I can take that even further: In many cases, it is helpful to have a therapist who has the same “faith-outlook” or religion that you have.
If you are lukewarm about your faith, or your faith isn’t an important part of your life (you are a weekend warrior, so to speak) than can it really matter what your therapist’s religious views are? What if you are a person of strong religious, spiritual belief?
If your therapist helps you understand the intersection of your faith and your mental health and what this means to you, without passing judgment, then good.
But what if they don’t get it? If your therapist feels, even if he or she doesn’t openly express it, that your faith (or faith in God in general) are akin to superstition or fairy tales, or even if they believe faith is just a false belief with no associated pejorative feelings, will it be more difficult for them to really understand you, your thoughts and feelings, and be able to help you?
Possibly not in many cases. Therapists generally accord clients respect. For people of faith, however, this can be a sensitive issue.
My experience shows that people of faith are no more or less likely to struggle with bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, or some other mental health issues, with a few possible exceptions.
However, being able to lean on their faith, embrace their belief, and share their mental health struggles with God, through prayer and meditation does indeed, as the study shows, aids them in getting good treatment results.
If their therapist supports this, it may be helpful to successful therapy.
If you are not religious or do not have strong faith, or if you do, it’s a good idea to ascertain if your therapist respects your beliefs or shares them.
Note: My opinions, above depends on a few factors including (but not limited to).
1. Sometimes a client can have symptoms of mental illness that might express as religious delusions. It is important to be clear on this.
2. Earlier in recovery, if a client isn’t stabilized, it might be unhelpful even for a believing therapist of the same or different faith as the patient, to discuss religion or spirituality. (A therapist must never proselytize.)
3. This is a touchy issue. Therapists are not clergy. But, some clergy are therapists. Clients should find the therapist that is right for them.