Should spirituality be integrated in the treatment of mental illness?

We still face the long-standing conflict between faith and science. The scientific medical model looks for a cure. The emphasis is on finding answers and the relief of symptoms. As we know, many times there is not a cure.

Healing is the peace that comes from knowing that God is working in our lives to bring about the best possible outcome, which is healing mind, body and spirit. This sense of peace and wholeness are gifts from a loving and compassionate God, even as we learn to live with mental illness. The challenge we face today is not the choice between faith and science. We need both. For decades, professional training programs have discouraged discussion of religion or spirituality with clients, as it was thought to foster delusions. Publicly funded programs must be careful not to promote specific religious traditions.

Incidents of discrimination or violence based on religious beliefs can create more fear. There is a mistrust of those concepts and processes that are more difficult to measure. But things are gradually changing as studies find that spirituality can be an important part of the treatment and recovery process and spiritual assessment tools are being developed for mental health professionals. We need to continue to find ways to encourage collaboration and partnership that includes a myriad of support systems.

The President's New Freedom Report on Mental Healthcare in America states that our current delivery system for mental health services is in shambles and only a total "transformation" of the system will benefit consumers. From a theological perspective, transformation refers to a spiritual process of growth and change. The commission for this report, which was made up of some of the most respected mental health professionals in America, asks for more coordination of services and providing treatment through community-based groups rather than institutions. It also calls for assisting persons to reintegrate into being successful and productive members of society through such means as job training and community support. Our faith communities can be an integral part of this process. The goal is recovery! Recovery is a process rather than a completed goal. Instead of using our resources to focus on the results of mental illnesses, the New Freedom Report encourages using resources for lifelong assessment and treatment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.