Here are some of the many reasons that faith matters for your mental health and therefore, for mental health treatment
1. The word “psychology” means the study of the soul, or mind. As stated earlier, your inner self, that place that no one can see but you and God, isn’t two things but one. It is here that you make decisions, feel emotions, retrieve memories, imagine, and think. Your inner self holds to a unique conception of what the world is like, what people call your worldview and cognitive scientists call a schema. Your schema is your personal, sometimes unexamined, perspectives on yourself, others, the world, morality, meaning and purpose. To examine this is to get at the root of why you do and say what you do.
2. Cognitive-Behavioral psychologists examine things you say in order to better understand your schema and to identify cognitive distortions that may be causing problems for you. One of the cognitive distortions that they identified are called “shoulds”. Shoulds, they would say, are illogical and lead to feelings of excessive guilt and shame. By correcting these “distortions,” these CBT therapists were alleviating painful feelings for their clients. However, in doing so, they were treating feelings of guilt and shame like a symptom of mental illness, and guilt and shame are natural, healthy (albeit painful) emotions, not something to be reduced in this way or eliminated. It is important to have a therapist who can identify with your beliefs, rarely fully, but close to your beliefs and respecting your beliefs.
3. Acceptance and Commitment (ACT) therapists, like myself, also examine cognition, but we identify frames. Thoughts attach themselves to other thoughts, and this often gets us into trouble. We help clients separate, or diffuse from thoughts that are problematic, so that our clients can get unstuck. We also emphasize the basic psychological need for values. We help our clients clarify their values and commit to their values. Values are what defines morality and gives life meaning and purpose, all aspects of religion/spirituality (RS). Learn more about ACT here.
4. But is such mental health treatment effective? A meta-analysis of 97 outcomes studies, which included 7,181 subjects, found that RS treatment was equal in effectiveness to non-RS treatment. However, the RS treatment was superior to non-RS treatment at improving spiritual wellbeing.1
5. The Interdivisional Task Force on Evidence-Based Therapy Relationships concluded from a meta-analysis of outcome studies that practice guidelines should give emphasis to therapists’ behaviors and qualities that facilitate better relationship with their clients. They also concluded that therapeutic methods should be adapted to particular client characteristics. The Task Force said that to promote mental health treatment as evidence-based absent consideration of the equally important efficacy of the therapeutic alliance was “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.