Thursday, September 06, 2007

Psychiatrists and Religion

Psychiatrists are less likely to be Protestant or Roman Catholic and more likely to be Jewish or have no religious affiliation compared to other types of doctors, according to the study released on Monday in the journal Psychiatric Services.
The study found that 39 percent of all the doctors surveyed were Protestants, 22 percent were Catholics, and 13 percent were Jewish. Among psychiatrists, 27 percent were Protestants 10 percent were Catholics, and 29 percent, Jewish.

Moreover, while 10 percent of all doctors reported having no religious affiliation, 17 percent of psychiatrists listed their religion as "none." Psychiatrists were more likely to consider themselves spiritual but not religious (33 percent) compared to other doctors (19 percent).
"Religious patients who prefer to see like-minded psychiatrists may have difficulty finding a match because their religious group is under-represented among psychiatrists," stated the researchers in the study.

New-York-based St. Michael’s Institute of the Psychological Sciences run by Dr. Philip Mango is trying to counter the effects of a profession dominated by unbelievers. He describes the birth of the center here:
The inspiration for St. Michael’s Institute came in 1985. At the time I was working in a bureaucratic, government-sponsored mental health center, and I had become thoroughly disillusioned with the way the patients were treated there. The spiritual dimension of their lives was completely neglected by the staff. That was because they lacked any belief in God, objective truth, or morality. They encouraged divorce and sexual promiscuity, and ignored the powerfully negative effects that some patients’ occult practices were having on themselves and the entire center.
Frustrated, I contacted my friend Dr. Paul Vitz, professor of Psychology at New York University, former atheist, and fervent Catholic convert. When I told him of my dissatisfaction, Paul startled me by saying: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could develop a center in New York City dedicated to integrating psychiatry, psychology and Catholicism? Where we would be free of all bureaucratic interference? Free like the Apostles to go around, maybe two by two, to bring healing and the message of Christ?
I earned a BA in Psychology with the intent to be a therapist, continued into a graduate program of Social Work at Fordham, while I worked in a mental health clinic run by Catholic Charities which did not represent the teachings of the Church. No post-abortion counseling was done, contraception and divorce were encouraged by social workers who themselves practiced it, and it bothered me that Catholic priests were referring parishioners there for what they thought was Catholic counseling. Few therapists were practicing Catholics, many were non-Catholic, so I felt that the entire clinic was a sham, and after two years, suffered from burn out. I had joined a group called, ACTS, Association of Christian Therapists, which met to encourage the integration of Christian faith into Psychology, but my workplace was still a spiritual desert. This was 1986, when Dr. Mango was starting the St. Michael Institute 60 miles from me in New York City. I wish I had known about him then.
After a lot of soul searching during a year I spent in Europe, I withdrew from the Fordham Graduate School of Social Services, where I had 15 credits toward my Master's in Social Work. I decided to get a Masters in Education to teach English as a Second Language instead. It seemed like a more productive way to help the poor, than the failed therapies from spiritually impoverished therapists.
I was fortunate to have a Catholic therapist in my twenties, while I was in this career crisis. Hew would identify my spiritual problems, and deal with them as a Catholic.He knew when he was out of his league, however, and sent me to confession when needed. THAT is what Catholics need. Fr. Benedict Groeschel, himself a Psychologist has said that people go to therapy, and usually they find out why they are miserable. But they are still miserable. Modern psychiatry encourages people to scapegoat others for their problems, but not examine their consciences and forgive those who hurt them. So instead of keeping their hurt and anger inside, they are aggressive, and lonely. Some people I know personally have completely rejected innocent family members based on a non-religious therapist's determination that they have been damaged by that person. More is lost than gained here, as bitterness is fostered and families shattered.

Thank God for men like Dr Paul Vitz, Dr. Philip Mango, with the St. Michael's Institute. Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, director of the Institute for Marital Healing outside Philadelphia, and Gregory Popcak director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, will be presenting at the Conference of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists this October on the integration of Catholicism into their respective fields.

HT The Christian Post

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