Spirituality and Mental Health
The September 13, 2023, newsletter from the John Templeton Foundation featured an article titled “When therapists prescribe prayer: the movement toward spiritually integrated psychotherapy” by Annelise Jolley.
Journalist and essayist Jolley summarizes the history of counseling and therapy, beginning with Sigmund Freud in the early 20th century. Freud and other psychologists and psychotherapists have often looked at religion as a crutch to the extent that Freud even believed that spirituality caused disorders rather than healing them. Recently, however, empirical evidence has shown that religious beliefs and spiritual practices including prayer, meditation, and a sense of community have a positive effect on mental health.
One researcher who has come to this conclusion is Dr. Lisa Miller, a clinical psychologist and the Founding Director of Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute. In her book The Awakened Brain she argues that past practitioners threw religion out like those who figuratively “threw the baby out with the bathwater.” She states that a counseling client’s brain has a hunger for spiritually integrated treatment. Tapping into spiritual awareness or “awakening” improves optimism and resilience and insulates against addiction and depression. Very relevant to MISNS’ chaplain support approach toward treating depression in female veterans, she states that mind, body, and spirit are integrated in a holistic manner and that to help them their counselors must themselves be on a spiritual journey. She does not insist that counselors operate inside a faith tradition but definitely works to equip therapists to integrate spirituality into treatment and the pursuit of wellness.
Psychologist Dr. P. Scott Richards agrees. He states that mature faith and spirituality predict better mental and physical health. Faith can be a salve, or medicine, instead of the source of harm to a human being. He has found that usually it is just as effective as secular counseling, and even more effective for those with a faith tradition.
The United States Army recognizes spirituality as an essential component of holistic fitness. Faith is a significant principle across all religious traditions. Dr. Roberts and the Harriet Tubman Chaplain Network believe that military chaplains, alongside psychologists, social workers, and medical doctors, share a multidisciplinary approach to caring for morally injured servicewomen. Moral injury research continues to be a major focus of MISNS and will lead to further refinement of the counseling modalities offered by MISNS.
Jolley, A. (September 13, 2023). When therapists prescribe prayer. John Templeton Foundation.
Accessed September 24, 2023
Miller, L. (2021). The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an
Inspired Life. Random House.
Richards, P. S., Kawika Allen, G. E., & Judd, D. K., eds. (2023). Handbook of Spiritually
Integrated Psychotherapies. American Psychological Association.