Source | www.scientificamerican.com | David H. Rosmarin
In the early days of the pandemic, economist Jeanet Bentzen of the University of Copenhagen examined Google searches for the word “prayer” in 95 countries. She identified that they hit an all-time global high in March 2020, and increases occurred in lockstep with the number of COVID-19 cases identified in each country. Stateside, according to the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans prayed to end the spread of the novel coronavirus in March 2020, and nearly one quarter reported that their faith increased the following month, despite limited access to houses of worship.
These are not just interesting sociological trends—they are clinically significant. Spirituality has historically been dismissed by psychiatrists, but results from a pilot program at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts indicate that attention to it is a critical aspect of mental health care.
In 2017 my multidisciplinary team of mental health clinicians, researchers and chaplains created Spiritual Psychotherapy for Inpatient, Residential and Intensive Treatment (SPIRIT), a flexible and spiritually integrated form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. We subsequently trained a cadre of more than 20 clinicians, stationed on 10 different clinical units throughout McLean Hospital, to deliver SPIRIT and evaluated the approach. Since 2017, SPIRIT has been delivered to more than 5,000 people. Our results suggest that spiritual psychotherapy is not only feasible but highly desired by patients.
In the past year, American mental health sank to the lowest point in history: Incidence of mental disorders increased by 50 percent, compared with before the pandemic, alcohol and other substance abuse surged, and young adults were more than twice as likely to seriously consider suicide than they were in 2018.