Depression in the Medically Ill
Evidence for the Important Role of Chaplains in Medical Settings
Keywords:Chaplains, medical illness, religion, stress, religious psychotherapy, research
Health professionals often underestimate the power that religious faith plays in the healing of the whole person (emotional, social, and psychological), especially when that person becomes physically ill. This article examines the role of religion in coping with stress and medical illness, reviews new research on the relationship between religious involvement and mental health, and explores how religious psychotherapy can speed the treatment of depression and other emotional conditions. A growing research base is now beginning to document the wide prevalence of spiritual and religious needs of patients in health care settings, the importance that addressing those needs plays in the patient’s mental and physical health, and the key role that chaplains play in this regard (as the only health professionals who are trained to address these areas). That research base includes studies from the United Kingdom. We are now developing and testing new psychotherapeutic methods at Duke University for therapists, including chaplains, that will provide tools to address the emotional and religious needs of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Hindu patients with medical illness.
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