I’m an atheist psychiatrist. Should I see patients who believe in God?

Source: Washington Post

January 26 at 12:25 PM

Jean Kim is a psychiatrist at the U.S. State Department and a writer working in Washington, DC.

My religious friend once asked me point-blank, “if you don’t believe in God, how can you see someone who does as anything but delusional? As a mental health professional, how do you counsel such a person?”

It’s a tough question for me. I’ve been a psychiatrist for almost 15 years. In that time, I’ve seen thousands of patients. Many are non-believers. But for others, faith is integral to who they are. In these cases, am I in a bad position to give care?

The first time I encountered this question, I was a patient, not a health provider, visiting a therapist in college.

When I walked in, nervous about talking to a stranger, I was taken aback by her gold cross pendant and the Christian picture hanging in her office. I’d been feeling isolated, depressed and unsure about my future; an unrequited crush didn’t help matters. As an Asian-American agnostic-atheist wary of any mental health provider, I feared that the doctor would shove her beliefs down my throat.

But though I wasn’t raised religious, I’d grown up around enough Christians to know how important the values of charity and empathy were in theory, if not always in practice. I hoped that she used these items as symbols of those values and would be kind. Fortunately, she was. I only saw her a few times, but her caring manner was enough to get me back on track.

Religion and psychotherapy have had a rocky co-existence. Sigmund Freud grew up Jewish but developed atheistic views as he founded the tenets of psychoanalysis. Religion, he said, was an illusion, a defense mechanism that civilizations used to institute morality. But Carl Jung, his most famous mentee and rival, believed the opposite. To him, incorporating spirituality and mysticism in psychotherapy was crucial. To heal, the unconscious had to connect to larger, unknowable forces in the universe and approach the divine.

This tension is obvious in many psychiatry training programs. In my training program, questions of religion and spirituality in clients were not openly discussed or taught. We are told to ask about “religious background” as a part of a social history assessment, but it’s not clear what to do with that information.

Even the American Psychiatric Association has laid out only general standards. In a 2006 paper, they advise maintaining respect for patients’ values, beliefs, and worldviews; not imposing one’s own religious beliefs onto patients; and fostering recovery “by making treatments decisions with patients in ways that respect and take into meaningful consideration their cultural, religious/spiritual, and personal ideals.” Psychiatrists are advised to maintain their religious boundaries. Asking a nonreligious patient to pray with you, or denigrating a religious patient’s commitments as “psychopathological,” for example, are no nos.

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Categories: Americas, Psychology

5 replies

  1. List of people with bipolar disorder
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_bipolar_disorder#S

    This is a list of people, living or dead, accompanied by verifiable source citations associating them with bipolar disorder (formerly known as “manic depression”), either based on their own public statements, or (in the case of dead people only) reported contemporary or posthumous diagnoses of bipolar disorder.

    Regarding posthumous diagnoses: many famous people are believed to have been affected by bipolar disorder. Most of these listed have been diagnosed based on evidence in their own writings and contemporaneous accounts by those who knew them. It is often suggested that genius (or, at least, creative talent) and mental disorder (specifically, the mania and hypomania of bipolar disorder) are linked; the connection was widely publicized by Kay Redfield Jamison in Touched with Fire, although many of the diagnoses in the book are made by Jamison herself. Also, persons prior to the 20th century may have incomplete or speculative diagnoses of bipolar disorder (e.g. Vincent van Gogh.)

    Mental Health 4 Muslims
    http://mentalhealth4muslims.com/#&panel1-4

    http://mentalhealth4muslims.com/2012/05/16/allahs-promise-a-journey-through-bipolar-disorder/#&panel1-1
    What does the Bible say about Bipolar Disorder / Manic Depression?
    http://www.gotquestions.org/bipolar-manic-depression.html
    Bipolar Disorder and the Creative Genius
    SerendipUpdate’s picture
    Submitted by SerendipUpdate on Fri, 01/04/2008 – 3:21pm Biology 202

    http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1726

  2. Hadhrat Muslah maoud(ra) says :Kalaam Mahmood
    Aaqil yahan per kam nahee wo lakhun bhee bafaida hayn
    maqsood mera pura ho agar mil jain mujhay dewanay dau

    Hundreds are useless,there is no need for a wise person
    If I can get two lunatics,my mission will be accomplished

    Page 118 Kalaam Mahmood:

    O The Magic of Dazzling Beauty make me Insane
    O The burning lamp make me your moth.

    Let me know the secrets of Love.make me an acquaintance
    Make me like a lunar and then an enlightened

    The Promised Messiah (as) says in pearl of wisdom

    Wo Khuda ab bhee banata hay jisay chahay Kaleem
    ab bhee us say bolta hay jissay wo kerta hay piyar

    God still makes orator, whom He desires
    He still talks to whom He Loves

  3. Give Thanks to Allah

    Surah Al Kausar, chapter 108- Holy Quran – with English Subtitles

    Surat Al Hadid (The Iron) (Holy Quran Chapter 57) With English subtitles

    Islam True Religion TV
    Surah Qiyamah (Judgement day) – Holy Quran chapter- With English Subtitles

    Promised Messiah a.s says in Pearls of Wisdom(Durray sameen)
    Nazm: Nishan Ko Dekh Kar – Islam Ahmadiyya

    Hiba-Tur Rahman
    Nazm – Na May Rahay نہ مے رہے نہ رہے خُم

    rabwahpak

  4. Getting married in the heavens

    On their way to get married, a young Muslim couple was involved in a fatal car accident. The couple found themselves sitting outside the Pearly Gates waiting for an angel to process them into Heaven.

    ​While anxiously waiting they began to wonder; could they possibly get married in Heaven?

    When the angel arrived, they asked him if they could get married in Heaven.​ The angel said, “I don’t know. This is the first time anyone has asked. Let me go find out,” and he left.

    The couple sat and waited for an answer… for a couple of months. While they waited, they discussed the pros and cons. If they were allowed to get married in Heaven, should they get married, what with the eternal aspect of it all? “What if it doesn’t work? Are we stuck in Heaven together forever?”

    Yet another month passed before the angel finally returned, looking somewhat bedraggled. “Yes,” he informed the couple, “You can get married in Heaven. Follow me.”

    “Great!” said the couple. “But we were just wondering; what if things don’t work out? Could we also get a divorce in Heaven?”

    The angel, red-faced with anger, slammed his clipboard on the ground.

    “What’s wrong?” asked the frightened couple.

    “OH, COME ON!” the angel shouted. “It took me 3 months to find a mullah up here​ in the heavens​! Do you have ANY idea how long it will take to find a lawyer?”

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