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From a secular standpoint, the differences between religious vs. psychiatric counseling involve one’s mental health.

Spirituality often depends on the influences of a supernatural being or the universe to correct potential issues. Psychiatric counseling looks at the physical processes that may be unbalanced to cause health problems.

When the two fields get combined, both influences can have a profoundly positive effect on an individual.

Can Religion Be as Influential as Medicine?

In the December 2003 issue of Monitor on Psychology, the magazine published by the American Psychological Association, author Karen Kersting relays an account from Christian psychology. A family found themselves in crisis because their son’s attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was out of control.

When the psychologist asked the family about their religious beliefs, he discovered that they were Jewish. It was the son’s behavior when they were in temple that prevented everyone from attending services.

The family had decided to stop going. When they spoke about the importance of religion in their lives, the psychologist noted that there were tears in their eyes because they could no longer be part of their community-gathered worship each week.

He encouraged the family to return to their religious rituals. Having spirituality in life can broaden individual horizons, creating new solutions that may not be possible without these processes.

How Does Religion Act as a Therapeutic Tool?

One of the most significant issues that psychologists face is an internal resistance from each patient not to forgive themselves for perceived transgressions. Religion can emphasize this area, helping people to let go of unhealthy anger, remove abuse, and find confidence.

Spirituality can also be detrimental to a person’s therapy. If someone believes in an angry God or vengeful spirits, engaging with those systems could cause additional emotional harm.

Many psychologists from a religious background like to ask patients if they pray, and if that action helps.


Even when those elements are available, most religious experiences start from a personal perspective. Anything that feels judgmental or from a world of condemnation will not help the process. Practitioners must remove themselves from the equation to focus on the spirituality of their patients.

Religion and psychiatry can work together, even with their differences. That’s because both practices have the same goal: to find healing.

Scott Larson