The role of religion in mental health

Living in Singapore, we are exposed to a variety of religions and rituals. Born into a Buddhist family, we carried out rituals (e.g. cooked food for the ghosts during Hungry Ghost Festival). In addition, as a student in a Catholic school, I remembered hunting for Easter eggs and attending mass during Good Friday. And now as a Christian, religion encompasses my life including my mental health. I remembered during my recent baby blues, besides seeking help from people, reading Christian books helped me cope emotionally.

Further, as a psychologist, I work with clients from various backgrounds including Christians. Having a similar religion provides another avenue to connect with the client. Hence, it builds the therapeutic relationship which then contributes to better therapeutic outcome. However, I am mindful that Christians may have different beliefs as churches may differ in their biblical teachings. Thus, being in a secular setting, I would usually check if they are comfortable using religion in the therapy session.

Moreover, I also work with LGTBQIA2S+ clients. Having a close relative in this community has taught me how to relate to clients in this community despite my Christian beliefs. However, it is inevitable for our beliefs to affect our thoughts. Hence, being cognizant and reflective of what goes on in the therapy session allows one to create a positive therapeutic relationship.

Lastly, religion is shown to be a protective factor for our mental health. For instance, it provides a purpose in life. However, I have noticed how religion can make one feel guilty and if not dealt correctly it can affect one’s mental health. Therefore, I believe religion and rituals may be easily overlooked but it actually has a powerful impact on our lives.

Written by:

Beverly Tan

Counselling Psychologist

Masters in Applied Psychology (Counselling) (Singapore)

MSPS, Registered Psychologist

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