Psychology Research Shows Religion and Spirituality Improve Mental Health


Spiritual and religious beliefs and practices correlate to a sense of meaning, purpose, overall well-being and mental health, according to hundreds of peer-reviewed psychological studies.

So why are so many trying to keep religion and spirituality separate from psychological practices?

Secularism driving separation of psychology and spirituality

Hundreds of studies have shown religion and spirituality are related to positive mental health. That being true, why then do so many practitioners try to keep psychology and religion separate?

For one, secularists within society are continually trying to separate spirituality and religion. They see psychology as a scientific practice, and spirituality and religion more along the lines of mythology. However, we must keep in mind that psychology is far from being a “hard science.”

Keeping religion and psychology separate goes back to William James, the “father of psychology,” who gave little credence to the essential role that spirituality and religion actually plays in mental health.

But the bigger impact on keeping religion separated from psychology gets credited to Sigmund Freud (1930) in his studies on psychoanalysis and behaviorism. He rejected spirituality and religion as being “foreign to reality” and “patently infantile.”

Cognitive behaviorist Albert Ellis jumped on the bandwagon, calling spirituality a” childish dependency.” He said, “spirit and soul is portion of the worst sort.”

These attitudes drove the direction of mainstream psychology, which led many in the field to simply ignore religious and spiritual beliefs, and taking for granted the actual beneficial roles they play in a person’s psychological well-being.

Some modern psychologists are fully ignoring the benefits of religion

In modern times, the push has only gotten stronger for the field of psychology to become more evidence-based and scientific. All this comes at the exclusion of the dimension of spirituality and religiosity in people’s lives.

Tragically, this research has been ignored despite the hundreds of empirical studies that, on a consistent basis, demonstrate a positive relationship between spirituality and religious beliefs, and how these practices aid psychological and emotional well-being.

Psychologists encouraging colleagues to include spirituality and religion in mental health care

One of those psychologists who is leading the way in bringing a focus back on looking at spirituality and religion as part of the overall practice of psychology is Doctor Cassandra Vieten, who is also the director of research and President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

Vieten, along with some of her colleagues, developed an online training program to train mental health professionals and how they can address religion and spirituality in their practice of mental health care.

Another study being conducted nationwide is looking at how patients receiving psychiatric services desire their psychotherapist to address the topic of spirituality and religion – if at all.

They will be comparing these results to the responses of 1200 practicing mental health care professionals.

Noetic science pushing for change

Noetic Sciences are a growing branch of study that is bringing multiple disciplines together to study not only the mind, but also the nature of reality.

It’s bringing together multidisciplinary experts in philosophy, psychology, parapsychology, cybernetics, and spirituality, as well as experts in physics, molecular biology, neuroscience, psychophysiology and more.

The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) was founded by Doctor Edgar Mitchell, an Apollo 14 astronaut who also made a pioneering moonwalk.

IONS defines noetic sciences as: “A multidisciplinary field of study that brings objective scientific tools and techniques together with subjective inner knowing to study the nature of reality.”