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Most Psychiatrists Open to Discussing Spiritual Concerns
Date:12/27/2007

They're more likely to broach the topic with patients than are other doctors, study finds

THURSDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Many doctors avoid issues of spirituality and faith when interacting with patients, but that's not true for most psychiatrists, a new study finds.

In fact, more than 90 percent of psychiatrists surveyed said it's always or usually appropriate to ask patients about their religious faith or spirituality, while just 53 percent of other doctors thought so.

On the other hand, psychiatrists were much more likely to report that crises of religious faith can worsen a patients' suffering.

"Although psychiatrists are not [typically] religious themselves, they are the doctors most comfortable with talking about spiritual issues," said study lead author Dr. Farr Curlin, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.

According to Curlin, there has long been a tension between psychiatry and people of faith, in no small part because the father of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, was deeply skeptical of religion. In addition, psychiatrists have "for a long time tended to associate religious belief and practice as being a sign of, if not mental illness, at least delusional behavior," Curlin contended.

The study does support the notion that, compared to other types of clinicians, psychiatrists are more dubious of religion. For example, 18 percent of psychiatrists surveyed said they were not religious, compared to 10 percent of other doctors. And, on a measure of "intrinsic religiosity," 47 percent of psychiatrists were rated as "low," compared to 36 percent of other doctors.

There have, however, been efforts to repair this "breach" between spirituality and psychology, said Curlin, who studies the roles of religion and spirituality within the context of medicine.

In the new study, researchers randomly surveyed 2,000 physicians about patients and
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