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Ellsworth, R.B. Ellsworth, J.B. (2010). Special Issue on Spirituality, Mental Health and Wellbeing. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 7(2):99-101.

(2010). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 7(2):99-101


Special Issue on Spirituality, Mental Health and Wellbeing

Rev. Robert B. Ellsworth, Ph.D. and Rev. Janet B. Ellsworth, M.S.

When Stuart Twenlow, editor of the International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, invited us to co-edit this special issue, he told us that spirituality, mental health and wellbeing is a “hot topic.” We had no idea, however, how widespread and diverse the interest in spirituality had become.

For centuries, churches, temples and synagogues held a monopoly on spirituality and nurturing the soul. In recent years, the historical link between religion and spirituality has been broken. A Gallup poll taken in 1978, for example, reported that 10 million Americans had turned to Eastern religions and nine million more were involved in some form of spiritual healing (Ferguson, 1980, p. 364). The mantra, “I am spiritual but not religious,” became widespread. In this special issue, we have selected nine papers that explore a variety of ways in which spirituality impacts mental health and wellbeing.

There have been hundreds of papers and empirical studies pertaining to spirituality, mental health and wellbeing. Jeff Levin, in his paper, leads the reader through this maze, identifying trends and common themes. He concluded that empirical evidence supports a generally protective effect that religious involvement has on mental illness and psychological distress. He then goes on to examine four potential explanations for the associations between religion and mental health. “Perhaps someday,” he concludes, “we will look back and wonder how we ever could have presumed that psychological well-being of humans were unrelated to the working of the human spirit.”

Harold Koenig was an early pioneer in conducting research and writing articles on religious involvement and health. Two decades ago, colleagues and mentors ridiculed his decision to focus on this area. “My mentors and colleagues told me repeatedly that I was wasting my time. My idea of establishing the ‘epidemiology of religion’ as a field of study, they assured me, was misguided and, quite frankly, ridiculous” (Koenig, 2001, p. vii). His paper in this Journal explores the relationship between spirituality and depression, anxiety and substance abuse. He shares his belief that spirituality may serve as a psychological and social resource for many in coping with stress. He warns, however, that spiritual beliefs for some can become entangled with mental and emotional disorders.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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