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The Role of Religion and Spirituality in Mental Health

This article begins by briefly reviewing the historical tension between religion and psychiatry. We then review the mental health benefits associated with religion and spirituality, followed by the negative aspects of religion and spirituality. We conclude by reviewing what this literature means for the assessment and treatment of psychiatric patients.

Key points of the research have been determined as:

  • Although psychiatry and religion have a history of troubled interaction, there is an increasing acceptance and awareness of the importance of religious matters in the lives of psychiatric patients.
  • Religion and spirituality have generally been shown to be beneficial for patients’ mental health and have been associated with greater well-being, higher quality of life, and lower rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Negative psychological outcomes associated with religion and spirituality may be related to negative religious coping (spiritual struggle), misunderstanding and miscommunication, or negative beliefs.
  • Many studies have shown benefit when religion or spirituality is appropriately incorporated into mental health assessment and treatment.
  • The dual nature of religion’s effects on mental health demands increased awareness of religious matters by practitioners in the mental health field as well as ongoing attention in psychiatric research.

Although research examining religion and spirituality and mental health generally indicates positive associations, there are also potentially negative aspects to religion and spirituality. As our understanding of the relationship between religion and spirituality and mental health continues to grow, there is a need for more sophisticated methodology, greater discrimination between different cultures and traditions, and increased focus on the situated experiences of individuals belonging to particular traditions.


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