Where do Christians go for help?
How does being a Christian help or hinder recovery and healing? Can the helpful elements be optimised in psychological therapy? Would you be better off seeing a Christian therapist, or the best psychological expert, even if secularly-orientated? Could it ever be better for you to see someone who doesn't share your faith?
This article contains research by Tara Gormley (then Cutland) for her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Leeds. You can contact her below. She offers psychological therapy, consultation and training in private practice in London.
Dr Tara Gormley, BScHons, DClinPsychol, CPsychol
Chartered Clinical Psychologist and Registered Psychologist
17 Wimpole Street, London W1G 8GB and 1 Snow Hill Court, London EC1A 2EJ
psu-che, [Greek; psoo-khay'] – n.
mind; soul; heart; the seat of feelings, aversions, desires
Research consistently reveals an association between 'intrinsic‘ religion (a 'lived‘, committed religion) and indices of psychological well-being. Whilst many reasons for the association have been proposed and tested, research mainly shows correlations between isolated researcher-chosen variables. Most studies to date have been conducted with non-clinical, non-UK samples, which are often of mixed religion; hence the generalisability of findings is limited. Research also suggests that Christians prefer to seek help that adheres to Christian values, addresses spiritual as well as psychological issues and is from a religious source. However, only one study on Christians‘ help-seeking has been conducted in Britain. I theorised that construing problems in Christian terms might affect both coping and help-seeking behaviours.
This study had three research questions: whether intrinsic, Protestant Christians construe psychological difficulties in Christian terms; how intrinsic Christians see their faith as helping or hindering them in coping with psychological distress; and the grounds upon which intrinsic Christians choose where to seek help. I conducted interviews with a clinical sample of 12 British, intrinsic, Protestant Christians and analysed these using a grounded theory approach. From my analysis I developed a tentative model of the psychological resources provided by intrinsic Christianity. I also developed a questionnaire, based on helper characteristics that participants identified as influencing their help-seeking. This assessed the relative importance of these characteristics and was completed by participants at follow-up interviews.
Findings indicated that psychological difficulties were predominantly construed in lay-psychological terms, but aspects were regarded as spiritual; that attachment to God and belief in his benevolent control were central to a range of aspects of faith that were perceived to facilitate coping; and that helpers‘ approach to Christianity could be a primary concern to Christian help-seekers. Finally, I related my findings to psychological theories and previous research findings and considered their implications for future research, clinical practice and Christian communities.
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