Tag Archives: spirituality

Mental health and your spirituality

I frequently get calls from people wondering how I involve spirituality with my patients. Some wonder if they have to be a certain religion to benefit from the spiritual aspect of my counseling.

The answer is no. In most cases, my practice is supportive of all types of spirituality that the client finds helpful. Whether it be prayer, spiritual literature, meditation, appreciation of nature, or recognition of some higher power, whether it be Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, unaffiliated, or something else, I respect my client’s preference and if appreciated, I encourage and support these religious or spiritual feelings.

We may explore what their spirituality means to them and whether there is conflict within them that may be contributing to difficulties. For some, we may do some meditative relaxation exercises.

Research shows spirituality contributes to good mental health, regardless of religion. That could be because spirituality encourages a broader, less selfish perspective. It promotes a sense of one-ness with a larger whole.

A 2014 study showed religion and spirituality actually showed up in brain scans: A particular brain cortex was thicker in patients who said religion or spirituality was important to them. Interestingly, that cortex is one that tends to be thinner in people who are at risk for depression.

There can be a downside to spirituality, though: Those who have negative spiritual beliefs–that bad things happen as punishment from a higher power, for example–have worse mental and physical health than those whose spiritual beliefs are only positive. These negative beliefs are something we can explore in therapy.

So whatever you believe, let’s talk about how we can make spirituality a part of your healing process.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.

Is Depression the result of a chemical imbalance?

The common thinking of the cause of Depression in the last 15-20 years has been that it is due to a chemical imbalance. Recently, it is found to be more complicated than that.
It is true that many people’s symptoms are improved with the use of antidepressants. Whether it be by a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), or selective norepinephirine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI, tricyclic antidepressant or another class, they all are helpful for many people. But it is also believed that close to 50% of people do not benefit from antidepressants. Personally, I question that number when I think about my own practice and how many people have improved. In my own experience, I see 70-80% improving with antidepressants. The prior low numbers may be due to a person getting their meds from a general practitioner than from a specialist who is more adequately prepared to choose the correct type of medication. It could also be that in my practice, I follow my patients much closer than the typical GP who gives psychiatric meds to their patients. Additionally, most of my patients also receive from me some type of counseling or therapy and other health counseling so that should surely be a factor in my better outcomes.
Other factors that appear to be related to depression are genetic predisposition, other illnesses like Diabetes, heart disease, Parkinsons and Cancer, lifestyle factors such as substance abuse, exercise and nutrition. In the last few years there has also been much research directed toward inflammation and its influence on depression which is also showing a lot of promise.

Considering the complexity of issues related to Depression, in my practice I have a multidimensional holistic approach to target Depression.  I use a combination of psychotherapy, lifestyle counseling, nutritional counseling, spirituality, and medication prescribing if appropriate and the patient is interested. I have helped many many people overcome the terrible delibitating disease of Depression.

How does personality effect happiness and health?

There has been very interesting research over the years discussing what types of personality traits effect the perception of happiness. There is evidence that suggests that extroverted people are happier than introverted people. This makes sense as it has been found that extroverted people are more likely to surround themselves with people, which we know is recommended to depressed people to help improve mood. Isolated people tend to be more depressed than more social people in my experience working with the mentally ill. Other studies attribute happiness with the quality of optimism

There is another study that I found that I find very interesting. It is found in the Journal of Affective Disorders in January of this year. “Personality and the perception of health and happiness” Cloninger CR, Zohar AH.  In this study they found that the traits of Self-directedness was strongly associated with all aspects of well-being. Additionally, Cooperativeness was strongly associated with perceived social support which we know is strongly associated with well-being. Another personality trait of Self-transcendence was associated with positive emotions.
Can these personallity traits be developed? The research is not clear but I believe it can. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one way. Another way I forsee in developing these qualities would be through the development of spirituality. I regularly see patients in my practice who have been able to develop these qualities to help them be more happy people. That is why I regularly engage my patients in CBT and also have discussions of spirituality to those patients who are open to it. Many have been able develop these personality traits and others that have helped them improve their perceptions of happiness.