Faith as Therapy: Belief Can Improve Mental Health, Studies Find

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A number of studies found that people who identified their spiritual beliefs as being most important to them showed significant improvements in mental health, appearing to be less depressed than those with little or no belief.

Strong Belief in God Improves Mental Health

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

–Psalm 34:17-18

Numerous studies over the past decade have independently reached similar conclusions when it comes to faith in God in mental health. Study after study has found that people who profess a strong faith in God tend to have better outcomes and appear to be less depressed after receiving treatment as compared to those with little or no belief.

A study published in The Journal of Affective Disorders, not only reach the aforementioned conclusion, but also found that the participants also appeared less likely to engage in self harming behaviors, the New York Times reported.

“Patients who had higher levels of belief in God demonstrated more effects of treatment,” said David H. Rosmarin, a psychologist at McLean Hospital and director of the Center for Anxiety in New York and lead author of the study. “They seemed to get more bang for their buck, so to speak.”

in addition, patients who were suffering from panic disorder and who rated faith as “very important to them,” responded better to cognitive behavioral therapy than those who rated faith as less important.

Other Studies Show Relationship Between Faith and Health

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

–Isaiah 41:10

Other studies, which have been documented by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Library of Medicine, show previous research affirming that faith has been associated with reduced risk of depression and increased life expectancy.

Some Psychologists Now Combining Faith with Therapy

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

–1 Peter 5:7

According to one psychiatric study in 2003, at that time, 65 percent of the psychiatrist said they believed in God. By comparison, 77 percent other physicians professed a faith in God. Nonetheless, the slew of recent studies showing improved therapy benefits through faith, has led some psychologists to now combine the two as part of treatment.

One such practitioner is Christian psychologist William Hathaway, PhD, of Regent University in Virginia, who was profiled in a cover story by the American Psychological Association (APA).

“Just being sensitive to a possible role of religion in a client’s life can broaden your evaluation and provide different solutions,” Dr. Hathaway said in the interview. “Being able to help a person connect with the variable of spirituality in their lives can be a beneficial and important therapeutic accommodation.”

“Using religion as a therapeutic tool is a little controversial and still emerging,” Hathaway explained. “Techniques include use of prayer during a session, ways to direct clients to pray, spiritual journaling, forgiveness protocols, using biblical texts to reinforce healthy mental and emotional habits and working to change punitive God images.”

Jesus said:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

–Matthew 11:28