Faith in God positively influences treatment for individuals with psychiatric illness

Belief in God may significantly improve the outcome of those receiving short-term treatment for psychiatric illness, according to a recent study conducted by McLean Hospital investigators.

In the study, published in the current issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, David H. Rosmarin, PhD, McLean Hospital clinician and instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, examined individuals at the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital program at McLean in an effort to investigate the relationship between patients’ level of belief in God, expectations for treatment and actual treatment outcomes.

“Our work suggests that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation. Belief was associated with not only improved psychological wellbeing, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm,” explained Rosmarin.

The study looked at 159 patients, recruited over a one-year period. Each participant was asked to gauge their belief in God as well as their expectations for treatment outcome and emotion regulation, each on a five-point scale. Levels of depression, wellbeing, and self-harm were assessed at the beginning and end of their treatment program.

Of the patients sampled, more than 30 percent claimed no specific religious affiliation yet still saw the same benefits in treatment if their belief in a higher power was rated as moderately or very high. Patients with “no” or only “slight” belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment than patients with higher levels of belief.

Faith in God positively influences treatment for individuals with psychiatric illnessThe study concludes: “… belief in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care. More centrally, our results suggest that belief in the credibility of psychiatric treatment and increased expectations to gain from treatment might be mechanisms by which belief in God can impact treatment outcomes.”

Rosmarin commented, “Given the prevalence of religious belief in the United States – over 90% of the population – these findings are important in that they highlight the clinical implications of spiritual life. I hope that this work will lead to larger studies and increased funding in order to help as many people as possible.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I for one strongly agree with Rosmarin that belief improves patients psychological well being and decreases patients depression and intention to self-harm. I believe that this is because you have something (a reason) to carry on trying and not giving up. If you believe in God then you feel loved and accepted and I believe that this is why people stop trying to hurt themselves and their level of depression decreases. As long as you feel that someone cares for you and loves you I believe you will keep trying and therefore improve in psychological well being. I believe that the patients who do not get better have given up hope, have given up trying, feel that there is nothing to work towards or live for. As long as you believe there will always be hope of a better tomorrow and as long as you believe and try, I believe that there will be and improvement. I also believe that people who have faith believes that the treatment can work. They have an expectation that the treatment will work and I believe that positive thinking also plays an important role in healing. People who have faith are generally more positive people and have a greater expectation and drive in life as they know where they are heading and what their purpose in life is. I believe that all these factors contribute to an increase in healing.

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