Article written by

Martin Lynch

Martin Lynch is a clinical psychologist and an assistant professor at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, teaching in the counseling and counselor education programs. His research focuses on the effects of social context on human motivation, personality development, and well being. His current research interests include cross-cultural issues in the role of autonomy support; the sources of within-person variability in trait personality, well-being, and life satisfaction; motivation for emigration; and adjustment of international students. He is also involved in applied motivational research in the domains of health care, education, work, and psychotherapy.

13 Responses

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  1. Crys Cassano
    Crys Cassano at |

    A predisposition to clinical depression runs throughout my family (as does a deep commitment to personal spirituality, though I will refrain from intimating there is a direct correlation!…), so this topic “energizes” or “ignites” me, as well. 

    Sadly, while medical science recently has come to acknowledge (if not understand) the positive role prayer and spirituality play in a person’s health and recovery from illness (doctors in most universities are now at least exposed to such concepts); while counselors and psychiatrists are now studying the interaction between spirituality and mental health; and while ministers in many faith communities are encouraged to study mental health counseling techniques (my previous pastor had his MS in Counseling), many mental health professionals and clergy still look upon each other with some suspicion, if not outright contempt. 

    It has been my personal experience that when I’ve mentioned my personal devotions to my counselor, though there has been no overt verbal reaction, I’ve been met with a slightly bemused look.  And when I’ve talked of having gone for counseling to members of my faith community, I’ve been met with somewhat startled expressions. 

    Over a span of 25 years, I watched my maternal grandmother retreat from life and happiness, due to clinical depression.  Her sister (spouse of a clergyman) insisted that if her religious life were in order, she would not be depressed.  So, Grandma prayed and didn’t seek professional help (imagine the impact of this action:  her prayers apparently were not answered, as her condition did not improve, so guilt and loss of trust heaped on top of the resident depression, worsening the situation!).  When she finally ended up in a long-term care facility, the staff immediately diagnosed the problem and prescribed antidepressants; the improvement was marked.  She regained much of her lost memory, once again resumed caring for the wellbeing of others, and in general, returned to her normally outgoing personality.  How tragic, I think, that she lost at least 15 years of enjoyment in life due to this ongoing conflict between religion and medical science.

    I find it both interesting and disturbing that most religions certainly would not discourage members from seeking medical attention for cancer or diabetes or heart disease nor would they send the members to the Pastor or church leadership for assistance, but they do not view mental disease in the same light.  It seems to me that those with a religious bent should be most willing to accept the body/mind/spirit connection and should be able to see that when one third (or in the case of depression, two thirds–both body and mind are adversely affected) is in a state of “dis-ease,” the whole person suffers.

    It is time that both camps acknowledged their disagreements, assumed a stance of live and let live, and then also acknowledged their mutual benefits to their clients.  It would be refreshing to find a counselor (whether of religious turn of mind or not) who was willing to direct her counselee (who is of a religious persuasion) to his church and/or his pastor for help and support where appropriate; and it would be equally refreshing to encounter a pastor who when confronted with an emotionally disturbed individual who clearly needed more than he had to offer would refer him to a professional.

  2. Martin Lynch
    Martin Lynch at |

    Crys – Thanks so much for your comment!  Hearing a personal perspective makes the issues come to life. I also would love to see more collaboration and communication among professionals who represent the religious and mental health communities.

  3. Joe Kloba
    Joe Kloba at |

    Check out the following resources for more information re your topic:
    1. The American Association for Christian Counseling
    2. The Christian Association of Psychological Studies
    3. Focus on the Family
    (Each of the above organizations have conferences, journals, newsletters and resources available.)

    4. The Council of Christian Colleges and Universities  ( This site will lead you to at least four doctoral programs and about 45 master’s degree programs that overtly address issues involved in integrating psychology and the Christian Faith.

  4. Elly P.
    Elly P. at |

    Nice write up…usually I never reply to these thing but this time I will,Thanks for the great info.

  5. Maurice F Prout
    Maurice F Prout at |

    <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } A:link { color: #0000ff; so-language: zxx } –>
    I love the personal incite, Crys. I cannot relate to this issue through personal experience like you, but nonetheless it frustrates me to no end to see that this is a real life issue that many people deal with. The extremes from both ends are as bad as each other. I would have thought that this should be a prerequisite for a clergy man or a psychologist. I come from a religious background, but have recently become fascinated by psychology in my university studies. I believe that those who do follow a faith can also gain relief from well practiced psychotherapy as I have found in the works of Dr. Prout. This professor does a great job at analyzing psychotherapy for the benefit of many individuals with a focus on cognitive behavioral therapy. This is very suitable to those who are believers. You may find a lot of usefully publications, at http://http://www.mauricefprout.com

  6. Maurice F Prout
    Maurice F Prout at |

    <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } A:link { color: #0000ff; so-language: zxx } –>
    I love the personal incite, Crys. I cannot relate to this issue through personal experience like you, but nonetheless it frustrates me to no end to see that this is a real life issue that many people deal with. The extremes from both ends are as bad as each other. Like so many things there needs to be some common ground and an understanding of one another perspective to guide them through a tough period. I believe that those who do follow a faith can also gain relief from well practiced psychotherapy as I have found in the works of Dr. Prout. This professor does a great job at analyzing psychotherapy for the benefit of many individuals with a focus on cognitive behavioral therapy. This is very suitable to those who are believers. You may find a lot of usefully publications, at http://http://www.mauricefprout.com

  7. newager
    newager at |

    There is no conflict between counseling and faith or spirituality, its the middle men that make the problem.

  8. Mickey "love bob jogging strollers" Miller

    You may want to take a look at some of the addiction literature like the blue book.  It has some interesting stories about how doctors would have no answer to addiction, but the combination of group therapy and find a higher power could cure these individuals when modern medicine had failed.  Not saying that your wrong, but doctors like to use their drugs first that was what they are taught.  Pastors like to try their tactics of spirituality first as well.

  9. Tianshi
    Tianshi at |

    There is a need to get a balance as the two cannot be separate as such.We dig in the religious books to get belief but at the same time we also go through such books and others to get professional knowledge,then when the line is cross professional counseling stem what could bring the religious side combine to the reality.A kind link up spirituality with reality.

  10. Terence
    Terence at |

    How can we expect doctors to be experts in every field of medicine?
    Of course they can’t be experts in say addiction unless they make it their specialty but who has time.
    But we can all agree, generally they love to pull out the prescription pad.
    Having said that how can we expect a holy man to know anything about mental health but we can agree that at least they should recognize that someone is asking for help and point them in the right direction.

    But alas if you come across a holy man who only believes the good book then if it’s not in there then it does not exist.

  11. zach
    zach at |

    What I believe is the mental issues we facing a lot right now because of lack of following what our religion had though us. Unless for the people that do not believe in Religion. Example : Religion is  the house, while other mental treatment is within the house. You know what i mean, right?

  12. Bob Jogging Strollers
    Bob Jogging Strollers at |

    Interesting article I believe that those who do follow a faith should stick to their religious background.

  13. Robert
    Robert at |

    A very difficult issue, especially when as in my case you come from an European country where religion and church play an important role in overall policy matters. I’m not a religious man but despite this I understand and acknowledge how important faith can be for someone’s mental health. Of course this does not mean that religion is the only means of treating mental disorders and very often only a connection of medical treatment and faith can lead to positive results. In this sense I agree with the first commentator saying that “it is time that both camps acknowledged their disagreements, assumed a stance of live and let live, and then also acknowledged their mutual benefits to their clients”. This is possible but it needs definitely a lot of time.

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