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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Prayer and Recovery

Over the years many have minimized the significance of Spirituality, Prayer, and Faith in the recovery process. Much of this is due to fact that great progress has been made in the scientific arena with the understanding of the physiological changes in the brain related to mental illness and the use of medications to help alleviate the imbalances and the suffering.

I will agree that due to the scientific gains many have received treatment that has enabled them to live much better and comfortable lives. Yet somewhere in the process of developing varied treatment modalities and the incorporation of numerous psychotropic medications, the use of prayer, the understanding of God, and the concept of spirituality is not only overlooked, but often excluded from treatment.
Why has this happened? I could hypostasize many different possibilities but that really isn’t necessary. What is necessary is to address why Prayer and Spirituality is so important to so many clients and the fact that they feel that this is not addressed in their treatment.
There are many devotedly religiously people who also suffer from emotional disorders. In fact, the symptoms of their disorder is often so entwined with their spiritual beliefs, it becomes very difficult for the client to discern what is actually a symptom and what is spiritual.
Can you imagine a devout catholic who also suffers from schizophrenia, and when she speaks of hearing God’s voice she is told that it is delusional. That when she prays to God and then receives a consolation of comfort and reassurance she is told that she didn’t actually receive that message but that it was a fragment of her imagination, a symptom of her illness. I don’t believe these directives are done in malice, nor intented to cause distress, but rather from staff that does not have the enhanced training to understand the intricacies of balancing a spiritual belief system and emotional distortions.
Why do these things happen? Let’s explore one possibility regarding what one usually does when one is ill-equipped to deal with a situation? I have witnessed two significantly difference responses; either one attempts to deal with the situation as best as they can, or one avoids the situation entirely. But what does that do to the client and their needs? It usually leaves them at a loss, neglected, and under treated.
So what is the solution to this ever growing problem? It would be easy to say that treatment professionals need to have training in meeting the spiritual needs of the clients that they serve. But even with the best of attention and efforts I don’t see that as adequately serving the client and their needs due to the amount of training that would be required to even understand the depth of some faiths and religions. I think a better solution would be to help the clients obtain regular access to individuals (pastors, ministers, rabbis, etc.) that can support and nourish the client and somehow involve them in the treatment team to provide ongoing education, clarification, and understanding of where client is coming from and how these beliefs must be respected, honored, and supported. This would be a drastic change in the treatment system, to actually have a spiritual representative function in the capacity of making recommendations in line with a client’s belief system and then have those suggestions carry the same weight as a psychologist or psychiatrist’s recommendations. However, without such, we will never adequately deal with the spiritual needs of the client and will never be able to honestly say that we treat the client holistically if we fail to address their spiritual needs.

Written By:

Deacon Patrick Kearns, RN-BC

Roman Catholic Deacon
Board Certified Registered Nurse, Psychiatric / Mental Health Nursing

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