Religious issues

Religion can be defined as a system of organized beliefs, behaviors and practices related to spirituality, morality or a higher being. Definitions of religion vary widely.

There is a complex interplay between religion and mental health. Religion can influence how we think, feel and behave in both positive and negative ways. For many people, religion and spirituality is a source of strength and wellbeing. It can help provide a framework that brings meaning, purpose and connectedness to life. Additionally, religion can help people to cope better with life stressors.

However, some face a unique set of challenges in society as a result of their religious beliefs. Some may experience discrimination or internal conflict because of their beliefs. This can cause distress and, for some, the experience of mental health symptoms.

Participating in therapy with a mental health practitioner who has knowledge and experience in religious issues can help, whether or not your concerns are specifically related to your religious beliefs.

Some people of different religions may have challenges navigating issues like:

Religion and mental health

Generally, religion is associated with good mental health (1). However, like anyone, people with religious beliefs may experience mental health challenges, which may or may not be related to their religion. Commonly experienced mental health challenges include:

It is difficult to tease out the exact relationship between mental health challenges and religion. One factor influences the other, and vice versa. In some situations, people may adopt religious beliefs in response to a search for meaning in the context of experiencing a mental illness. In other cases, experiences related to religion, such as discrimination, may impact on a person’s mental health. Some findings from the research are as follows:

Some people with religious beliefs may feel reluctant to seek help. They may worry about discrimination or think that therapists might not understand their beliefs. However, it is important to seek help as soon as you feel the need. You might consider a combination of the following:

Therapy with a practitioner who has knowledge and experience in religious issues can help, whether or not your concerns are specifically related to your religion. Most therapy types can be applied to religious issues. You and your therapist will work together to determine which therapeutic approach is the right fit for you. Examples of types of therapy commonly used include:

Consider the following factors when you are looking for a therapist to help you with issues related to religion:

Education

It is always important to look for a mental health professional with a current license. This ensures that your therapist has completed the appropriate level of education and has participated in ongoing professional development. When browsing through therapists on Zencare, you can rest assured that our therapists have already been vetted.

Cultural competence

Regardless of which type of mental health professional you choose, you’ll want to be sure the therapist is committed to culturally competent practice. Look for a therapist who demonstrates respect for your religious and spiritual beliefs and is willing to actively work with them in therapy.

Personal fit

Addressing religious issues through therapy can be challenging, so you want to work with someone you feel comfortable with and trust. The trusting working relationship between you and your therapist, known as the “therapeutic alliance”, can have a huge impact on the efficacy of therapy.

Zencare can help you to find prospective therapists. You can search for therapists, browse the videos of our vetted therapists and book a free phone call to help you to find the right personal fit.

Ask in advance

The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call (you can do this with our vetted Zencare therapists). Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This gives you the opportunity to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.

Find the best therapists near you

Find therapists on Zencare, below. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.

Sources

(1) Values and religious issues in psychotherapy and mental health

(2) A test of faith in God and treatment: The relationship of belief in God to psychiatric treatment outcomes

(3) Mental health, religion and culture

(4) Religious Struggle: Prevalence, Correlates and Mental Health Risks in Diabetic, Congestive Heart Failure, and Oncology Patients

(5) Religious and Spiritual Factors in Depression: Review and Integration of the Research