Psychiatrists and Psychologists Now Say:
"We have much to learn from clergy"

Jeffrey Weiss/TN, Breaking Christian News, September 5, 2007

(Dallas) - A new paper published this week in the Journal of Psychiatric Services, indicates that according to a national survey of physicians taken in 2003, patients who mention to their doctor that they might be depressed could be influenced by the religious beliefs of their doctor.

Doctors were asked on the survey about whom they would refer someone to who was still deeply grieving two months after the death of a spouse. Their options were: a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a clergy member or religious counselor, a health-care chaplain, or other.

According to the report in the Dallas Morning News, Protestant doctors were more likely to choose one of the religious options than any other religious group; the less religious the doctor, the more likely the choice would be a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Dr. Gary Barnes, associate professor of Biblical counseling at Dallas Theological Seminary and a licensed psychologist, said patients should take a lesson from the results, and make sure that their doctors know what is important to them—including spiritually.

As recently as the 1990's, says Barnes, not even psychologists were focused on issues such as forgiveness, and these days, "forgiveness is one of the hottest areas of psychological research."

He is quoted as saying that "sometimes, the distinction between mental disorder and a spiritual crisis is not obvious" and that "we have much to learn from clergy."

Dr. Don Hafer, a neuropsychologist and clinical therapist coordinator for Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, agrees that doctors should make it a standard practice to ask their patients questions about their faith and beliefs.

Dr. Farr Curlin, the University of Chicago doctor who was the lead researcher of the study, hopes the results of his study will prompt doctors to "consider their own biases a bit more when considering treatment options."

Source: Dallas Morning News

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