As a practitioner of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, I integrate my client’s faith into their treatment. Here are some of the many reasons to consider faith and mental health together in mental health treatment:
“Psychology” means “the study of the soul,” or mind. Your inner self, the place that only you and God can see, is one thing, not two. Therefore, there is no divide between mind and soul. This is where you make decisions, feel emotions, retrieve memories, imagine, and think. As a result, the inner self has a unique conception of the world, which people commonly call a worldview and what cognitive scientists call a schema. Your schema is your personal, sometimes unexamined, perspectives on yourself, others, the world, morality, meaning, and purpose.
Cognitive-Behavioral psychologists examine your words to understand your schema and identify cognitive distortions that may be causing problems for you. One cognitive distortion they identified is a “should.” Shoulds, they say, are illogical and lead to feelings of excessive guilt and shame. CBT therapists alleviate painful feelings for their clients by correcting these “distortions”. However, they treat guilt and shame like symptoms of mental illness. In reality, guilt and shame are natural, healthy (albeit painful) emotions and should not be reduced in this way or eliminated. For this reason, you should choose a therapist who takes faith and morality seriously enough to respect your values.
In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which I practice, we both examine cognition and identify frames. The term “frame” describes how thoughts attach themselves to other thoughts. In ACT, we help clients separate, or defuse, from problematic thoughts so that the client can get unstuck. Additionally, we emphasize the basic psychological need for values and help our clients clarify and commit to their values. Since values define morality and give life meaning and purpose, which are all aspects of religion/spirituality (RS), I must address the client’s faith and mental health together.
Is such mental health treatment effective? According to a meta-analysis of 97 outcomes studies, which included 7,181 subjects, RS treatment worked just as effectively as non-RS treatment. Moreover, the RS treatment improved spiritual well-being more effectively than the non-RS treatment.1
The Interdivisional Task Force on Evidence-Based Therapy Relationships concluded from a meta-analysis of outcome studies that a therapist’s practice guidelines should emphasize behaviors and qualities that facilitate better relationships with their clients. The Task Force also concluded that therapists should adapt their therapeutic methods to particular client characteristics. Furthermore, the promotion of mental health treatment as evidence-based without consideration of the equally important efficacy of the therapeutic alliance is, they decided, “seriously incomplete and potentially misleading.”2
Gary DeVine has provided integrative (R/S) behavioral health treatment for individual adults for about 20 years and has been a Licensed Professional Counselor for 14 years. He is licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and credentialed by multiple insurance companies and EAP’s3.
1. Capturi, L., Hook, J., Hoyt, W. & Davis, D. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327693211_Integrating_clients’ _religion_and_spirituality_within_psychotherapy_A_comprehensive_meta-analysis_CAPTARI_et_al
3. Gary is credentialed by the following insurance companies: Aetna, Allied Benefits, Cigna, Quest Behavioral Health, United Behavioral Health (Optum or United Healthcare). He is also credentialed with the following Employee Assistant Programs: Aetna, Cigna & Optum.