Religion and Psychiatry: Clinicians Are Talking

Ronald W. Pies, MD; Cynthia Geppert, MD, PhD, MPH, MSBE


June 10, 2013

In This Article

Caught in the Middle

Ms. A's experience as a person of faith with a mental illness who found herself caught between the truths of science and religion struck a personal chord with many commenters. Crystal M. was one of many brave respondents who shared stories of their struggles to reconcile their beliefs in God with their trust in psychiatric medicine.

I was born into and raised by a Pentecostal family. The first thing my parents, especially my mother, would say if I was experiencing issues was, "Did you pray about it"? I was taught to think of psychology and psychiatry as un-Godly. It wasn't until my mid-20s that I sought (non-medication-related) help for my recurrent depression and an eating disorder. After having severe postpartum depression with the birth of my first child, I was placed on an antidepressant. It changed my life! After going through a particularly rough spot 8 years ago, I began to see a licensed clinical social worker. I truly believe that if it were not for medication and weekly therapy, I would not be alive today to write this response. I now see that God has provided these special people as his earthly helpers.

On the basis of their years of practice, therapists both with and without faith commitments offered sage advice to Ms. A, her psychiatrist, her professor, and these authors, on how to handle the situation. Dr. Doris Araujo provides an example of the patient-centered, compassionate approach that characterized so many responses:

As a Christian and a retired psychiatrist, I never felt that I should try to change my patients' convictions or beliefs. However, if a patient brought up questions about the meaning of life and spirituality, I explored this area of concern with the patient as far as the latter desired, unless it was being used as a defense mechanism or maneuver to avoid psychologicallyimportant material.


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