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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Religion, Spirituality and Psychology Part 1

In the next few post we will be examining the role of religion and spirituality in psychology and psychotherapy. This post will first examine the religion and its place in psychology. The following post will examine spirituality. The final post will be an interview with a psychotherapist who is also a member of the clergy to talk about areas of psychology, psychotherapy and religion.

I am sure you are asking yourself, what is the difference between religion and spirituality? I think a lot of people may think they are one in the same. Religion, is organized and has set rules and practices. Spirituality I believe is described most appropriately by the Black Eyed Peas: "I got a feeling..." Spirituality isn't bound by the same set of rules that religion is. Spirituality is more of an emotional identity attached to a belief.

Religion and Psychology
Through my research for this blog post, there is little proven research based psychological methods used within psychotherapy or psychology. The only known statistic I was able to obtain was a study done by Smith, MacCullough, and Poll. (2003). Religiousness and Depression. Psychological Bulletin, reported in Does Religion Make People Happier? stated that: "According to a 2003 meta analysis (2) that combined the results of 147 different studies, religiosity explains less than 1% of the differences in vulnerability to depression. If religion has such small correlations with depression, it may not be a huge factor in happiness either."

Otherwise all other known correlation of religion and psychology have purely been related to social psychology themes. Which means that religion plays a role in social psychology with being a part of something bigger, advantages in social support system, it is also used as a coping skill to relieve anxiety, as well as improving social skills with peers.

Part II will be a bit more substantial but this should hold you over.

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Have a good Thursday!


  1. After reading the article, I think there is more to take out of it than just the idea that religiosity explains less than 1% of differences in vulnerability to depression. That fact under-estimates the potential role religion plays in defending against depressive symptoms for individuals. Four possible mechanisms that may reduce vulnerability to depression through religion are the effects of religion in deterring drug use, the opportunities for social support, additional resources for appraising negative life events, and religious cognitions and behaviors that reduce the perceived stressfulness of events. Yes. These might not work for everyone, but it is a very powerful tool for those for whom it resonates. Yes. This is a complicated and controversial topic, but there is an extensive amount of research supporting the benefits of religion/spirituality in mental health.

    1. Thank you ClinicalPsychStudent. I couldn't agree more. Thank you for adding the additional benefits that may help those who seek religion as well as therapy to guide them through there illness!