Have you ever heard of the term mind-body dualism?
It is an interesting concept we don’t study enough. The term refers to the mind-body connection, which can tell us a lot about how spirituality and mental health intersect. It’s amazing just how the brain and body interconnect with our environment and our genes. It almost seems impossible to study the brain and the body without considering the spiritual components of who we are as humans.
I first learned about the medical model as a teen through my mother who was highly versed in nursing. I found her interest compelling, but it wasn’t until the third semester of college that I began to see the shortcomings of medicine. I ended up studying psychology and forensic science to gain a better understanding of how humans interact in the world but often felt like something was missing. Armed with knowledge, I set out to learn more about the spiritual and existential components of life. During my clinical internship in a psychiatric hospital, I realized that science and the medical model alone were not enough to explain the intricate parts of the people that I saw. Medical treatment lacked the ability to connect to the spiritual needs and experiences of the people who needed help. This needed to change.
Research suggests that there is a direct causal relationship between the spiritual needs of patients and overall well-being (Saad et al., 2019; Peres et al., 2020). Over the past few years, spirituality has been an important component of balanced care in the field of psychology although it still isn’t talked about enough. Spirituality certainly informs my practice every single day.
As a seasoned psychotherapist, I recognize that most established medical models are based on evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help people learn practical tools to heal. This is the golden standard of the medical model. However, I continue to rely on an existential and spiritual framework in mental health so that more of my clients can have access to a well-rounded treatment model.
Thankfully, there are some research studies focused on clarifying the important role of spirituality in mental health. For example, a study on the effects of religious and spiritual services showed there is a strong causal relationship between religious and spiritual services and greater longevity in people with various health conditions (Saad et. al, 2019). Another study supported the idea that medical miracles are something to be better understood. A survey from the Bulletin For Biblical Research (Keener, 2015), found that at least 55 percent of medical doctors believed in medical miracles and spiritual occurrences that cannot always be explained by science.
For me, a well-rounded medical model is one that not only focuses on the scientific aspects of who we are as humans but also considers the importance of mind, heart, and soul. I have learned that true clinical practice entails considerations of the spiritual components of life and sometimes the unexplainable. If we ignore the unexplainable and the spiritual aspects of medicine, we not only fail those we treat but also ourselves.
Keener, C. S. (2015). Miracle reports and the argument from analogy. Bulletin for Biblical Research, 25(4), 475–495. https://doi.org/10.5325/bullbiblrese.25.4.0475
Peres, M. F. P., Swerts, D. O., Arão, B., Leão, F. C., Lucchetti, A. L. G., Vallada, H., et al. (2020). Mental health and quality of life among adults with single, multiple, and no religious affiliations. J. Nerv. Ment. Dis., 208, 288–293. https://doi.org/10.1097/NMD.0000000000001115
Saad, M., Daher, J. C., & de Medeiros, R. (2019). Spirituality, religiousness and physical health: Scientific evidence. In G. Lucchetti, M. F. Prieto Peres, & R. F. Damiano (Eds.). Spirituality, religiousness and health. Religion, spirituality and health: A social scientific approach, vol 4. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-21221-6_6