Benefits of Faith

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on December 22, 2011 2:27 pm

What is it about faith that draws so many towards a higher being and a desire to be “enlightened”?  Children are much more impressionable when expressions of faith are displayed, whether inwardly and/or outwardly.  During this time of year, we hear songs of praise, see images of devotion, and hear the clamoring of religious words being spoken in the halls, synagogues, temples, and churches.  Faith is an abundant aspect of life.  

THE THERAPEUTIC ENVIRONMENT 

Does faith enrich a child’s experience of life? In the field of psychotherapy, counselling, and psychology, faith was historically considered a taboo subject, something we left for parents to embark upon.  As a graduate student, I recall having been told countless times that “faith is something that we don’t tread upon,… or if we do, we tread lightly.”  Moreover, if a patient desired to speak of their faith; we should walk cautiously through this minefield, always emphasizing the patient’s statue of faith.  

If we are to plunge into the life of a person, should we not also be learning about their faith’s values, morals and ethics?  Why is it that we resist speaking about faith in our clinical practices?  Are we afraid that our own faith might come under scrutiny?  Of course, we are not to testify or discuss our faith during therapy. 

Ironically, discussions we have with our patients in therapy, have a way of burrowing their way into our conscience mind beyond the therapeutic session.  Faith happens to be one of those conversations that I have had countless times with fellow practitioners. I have found practitioners who either do not feel comfortable having such conversations with their patients; or they allow their personal foundations of faith to embark upon the patients; or they have a bitter feelings when discussing faith; or they are completely neutral.  If a therapist is wavering on their own foundations of faith, or if they are incapable of allowing the patient’s foundations of faith to be the center piece; they should step aside; referring this patient to someone who maybe unbiased towards faith.  

PARENTAL INFLUENCE 

As parents, we are influencing many aspects of our child’s innermost thoughts and world perspectives.  We provide an unwritten guide on the basic human theory of life, relationships, religious and nonreligious ideologies.  The relationship we have with our child can help them to embrace or reject the faith with which we proclaim.  We are at the faith helm of our child’s life, steering our children down paths that we follow, as well as, paths that one day our child may or may not choose to follow.  

ARE THERE BENEFITS TO FAITH? 

Are there benefits to employing faith in the therapeutic environment?  Faith is capable of providing a foundation of support, a source of hope and comfort, and a place of solitude and refuge during troubling times.  “… a new study finds that higher levels of religious faith and spirituality were associated with several positive mental health outcomes, including more optimism about life and higher resilience to stress…” (APA, 2000, Online)   “It may be that having faith translates into your being more soothed physiologically.” (Goleman, 1995, Online) 

Children who rely upon their foundations of faith often have greater coping skills instilled.  We know that a children’s basic moral compasses are geared by those that are in their immediate inner-circle: their parents, friends, teachers, and religious leaders. “Children reared in a system of faith often find great solace in formal ceremonial practices during times of stress and uncertainty. Parents can reinforce this coping strategy by reaching out to their faith community and providing opportunities for their children to spend time with others, particularly peers, who share their beliefs. Teachers should be sensitive to a student’s belief system and may expose them to a variety of value building literature and activities.” (NASP, 2011, Online) 

The National Center for Children Exposed to Violence, NCCEV are not unlike many other publicly funded centers today; they emphasize a need to employee faith-based strategies in healing one’s psyche. “Help from educators, mental health professionals and faith-based groups can be effective tools for intervention.”  (NCCEV, 2011, Online) 

“‘Having a strong faith and being embedded in a web of relationships like churchgoing have definite health benefits,’ said Dr. Lisa Berkman, an epidemiologist at the Yale University School of Medicine.” (Goleman, 1995, Online)  Can faith act as a source of good, for those who are struggling with psychological challenges? 

AN EXAMPLE OF A DIAGNOSTIC BENEFIT 

Children with the diagnosis of Autism often require high levels of energy and personal resiliency. 

Parents of autistic children are often taxed emotionally, financially, and psychologically. (Konrad, 2010; Tonge, et. al, 2006; Milgram & Atzil, 1988)   “…Some of the most commonly used coping strategies in times of distress is religious belief…” (Gupta & Singhal, 2005, p. 70) While autism only accounts for a minuet part of childhood diagnostics; it can be one of the most challenging of diagnoses for parents.  

FAITH BEYOND RELIGION 

Faith in religious orders is not the answer for everyone, but everyone has a faith.  Faith is the ability to completely trust or show an unwavering confidence in another.  Our faiths can be placed on a higher deity, upon ourselves, and/or upon the life of another.  Children in healthy and nurturing environments most commonly have a faith in their parents:  that they will always be protected; that they will be gently guided in life; and that will always be shown a spirit of unconditional love, acceptance, and approval.  According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “children who have faith and confidence in themselves and their abilities will be more likely to lead happy and productive adult lives.” 

Integrating faith and psychology is not a difficult task, rather it is sort of a natural evolution.  It is faith that has the ability of employing unconditional trust, therefore allowing our minds to completely relax and reach a higher plateau of peace. 

REFERENCES 

American Psychological Association, APA (2000) Religious faith and spirituality may help people recover from substance abuse, Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2000/08/faith.aspx

Canadian Mental Health Association, CMHA (2011) Children and self-esteem. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.cmha.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=2-29-68

DuPont, R. L. (2001) The healing power of faith: Science explores medicines’s last great frontier The American Journal of Psychiatry 158:1347-1348

Goleman, D. (1995) Religious faith and social activity hellp to heal, New research finds Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/04/us/religious-faith-and-social-activity-help-to-heal-new-research-finds.html 

Gupta, A., Singhal, N. (2005) Psychosocial support for families of children with autism. Asian Pacific Disability Rehabilitation Journal 123(16-2):62-83

Konrad, W. (2010) Dealing with the financial burden of autism, Retrieved December 19, 2011, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/23/health/23patient.html?pagewanted=all

Milgram, N. A., Atzil, M. (1988) Parenting stress in raising autistic children. Journal of Autism Development Disorder 18(3), 415-424

National Association of School Psychologists, NASP (2011) How children cope with trauma and ongoing threat: The BASIC Ph model, Retrieved December 19, 2011, from http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/ongoingthreat.aspx

National Center for Children Exposed to Violence, NCCEV (2011) Community violence, Retrieved December 19, 2011, from http://www.nccev.org/violence/community.html

Oxman, T. E., Freeman, D. H., & Manheimer, E. D. (1995) Lack of social participation or religious strength and comfort as risk factors for death after cardiac surgery in the elderly. Psychosomatic Medicine 57: 5-15

Tonge, B. J., Brereton, A., Kiomall, M., Mackinnon, A., King, N., & Rinehart, N. J. (2006). Effects on parental mental health of an education and skills training program for parents of young children with autism: A randomised controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 45(5), 561-569.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

20 comments on “Benefits of Faith”

  1. Dear Dr. Robert Rossel,

    Thank you for taking the time to review and offering your feedback on the “Benefits of Faith.” I am personally appreciative of the discussions that have occurred on CCPA, as well as, LinkedIN. Moreover, it is intriguing how the original discussion has ignited a further discussions to be developed. Finally, I am appreciative of the atmosphere on CCPA, as well as, on LinkedIN. While there have been varying viewpoints; they have allowed for respectful conversations and very lively and healthy debates.

    Warm Regards,

    Dr. Asa Don Brown

  2. I appreciate the perspective introduced here and the rich conversation that has taken place on line through Linked In. Clearly you have touched on a very relevant and important topic for psychotherapists of many different schools and persuasions to consider.

    Thank you,
    Rob

  3. Dr. Colin Wilson says:

    “Integrating faith and psychology is not a difficult task, rather it is sort of a natural evolution. It is faith that has the ability of employing unconditional trust, therefore allowing our minds to completely relax and reach a higher plateau of peace.”

    As a Bible College professor in the department of psychology, I agree with this statement. Taken one step further, the integration of theology and psychology has been of tremendous value in ministering to individuals in a holistically.

    1. Dear Dr. Colin Wilson,

      I am sincerely appreciative of your time and review. While my article set out to address the need for a personal belief in self, it has opened a virtual conversation on the topic of faith through a religious order (system of faith). Dr. Colin Wilson, it is fascinating how a system of faith can prove an added benefit to the life of an individual. For individuals who have a system of faith; it’s the system of faith that often, or frequently proves a supportive function in the life of the individual. A system of faith not only can offer support, but can act as a catalyst of hope, possibility, and transition. Moreover, if someone lacks a system of faith, it’s not to say that they are incapable of developing a personal need for self-gratitude and belief in self, rather that the system of faith is in addition to one’s personal belief is self.

      Thank you for your time and efforts.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  4. Tom Roberts says:

    Highly religious people are less motivated by compassion than are non-believers

    Posted: 30 Apr 2012 11:00 AM PDT
    “Love thy neighbor” is preached from many a pulpit. But new research suggests that the highly religious are less motivated by compassion when helping a stranger than are atheists, agnostics and less religious people

    See Sieince Daily for link.

    1. Dear Tom Roberts,

      I am appreciative of your time and review of my article on the “Benefits of Faith”. People are people and compassion varies amongst races, creeds, and religious and nonreligious ideologies.

      Thank you for your time and efforts.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  5. Amy says:

    “According to your faith will it be done to you” Jesus said. By the size of our faith we can accomplish all things we want and need to do! How big is your faith in His love, mercy, generosity and grace? Expect great things, because He also says “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” Matthew 7:7 Talk about good news!♥

    1. Dear Amy,

      Thank you for your time, review of my latest article, and feedback.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  6. Megan says:

    Deb, I liked how you stated that “faith does not mean religion exclusively”. I am a spiritual person and although not necessarily religious, I do attend services, pray and get involved with other religious activities. I even went to a religious Graduate school and grew up attending church. I like how you explained that having faith in oneself is important. I agree with you. I’ve heard to people say to rely on God – that being what “faith” is – a knowing and having faith that God will come through. However, part of psychotherapy is learning to rely on yourself. Maybe a better way of seeing faith is to rely on oneself and those who rely on spirituality can also look to a Higher Power or God to assist them with that. I often look to aspects of many philosophies and faiths as well as making sure that I am doing what needs to be done to achieve and heal in the therapeutic process. In other words, I am taking action but looking to faith for support.

    1. Dear Megan,

      I sure appreciate your review of my and comments. For me, I can have “faith” in any aspects of my life; not just in a religious ideological perspective. I may have the faith that I will achieve, accomplish, or master a particular item in my life. I may excerpt my faith into the life of another. After all, faith has been defined by many reputable dictionaries as having the following characteristics: “trust, belief, confidence, conviction; optimism, hopefulness, hope.” Can I not have these in another or my own personal being? Does faith have to be solely placed in the context of a religious order? I don’t think so; whether I choose to express my faith in a religious order or not, having faith should encourage one’s expressions of hope and “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to read and reply to my latest article.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  7. Deborah Pickering says:

    Hello Dr. Brown,
    I have really enjoyed your article on faith. Faith is not something I personally give a lot of concsious thought to because for me, at first glance faith means religion. I realize that faith and religion are not always one and the same yet that is the relationship that initially pops into my mind.
    As a child my home life was extremely religious and in my community it was rare to meet anyone who did not believe in God and attend church regularly. My life experiences, and those of many others, caused me and them to reject religion. Even so, over the years I found myself relying upon the teachings of my church to get me through challenging times. in present times it is quite a popular trend for many to seek spirituality, and a belief in a ‘higher power’, as long as they don’t call that power God. Due to this realization I learned that ‘faith’ does not mean religion exclusively.
    Faith is that inner knowing, confidence, and certainty that one will reach their goals, survive physical and/or mental and emotional challenges. Faith lets us know we will survive even the most devastating curcumstances in our lives, and in the lives of those we love and care for.
    Faith does not have to be linked with God, Allah, Buddha, or any other religious diety, but at the same time, it can be. In the field of psychology it is indeed a travesty to ignore the religious, or lack of religious, connection of ones’ faith. Whether we are devoutly religious or atheistical, our beliefs and faith are part of the very fabric of our being. For some, to have this part of themselves denied in therapy or counselling would be almost like being told, “You must not breath”.
    Thank you for having the courage to address a topic which is for many a very uncomfortable one. Again, I enjoyed the article very much.
    Sincerely, Deb Pickering

    1. Dear Deb Pickering,

      Thank you for taking the time to reply and review my latest article. Following the publication of this article, I began to realize how very stereotyped the concept and the very word faith had become. I posted this article to several “LinkedIn” groups and I must admit that the response is reflect to your own. For many indicated that faith had always been synonymous with religion.

      In my practice, I have learned that “faith” is an application or an exercise of trust. It is an exercise of loyalty and belief in something, someone, or in one’s self. You are correct that faith, “…does not have to be linked to God, Allah, Buddha, or any other religious deities. Faith is an exercise in personal belief as well. Personally and professionally, the more faith I have in myself, the more faith I have to dispense in others including my spiritual faith. If I lack faith in myself, then my faith in anything or anyone else will be compromised.

      Thank you for taking the time to reply to my latest article.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  8. Helen Green says:

    Thank you for your words of wisdom and compassion again. Whatever the faith is, it does make a difference to children and adults particularly if they are going through traumatic circumstances. Faith can strengthen and benefit the individual and, as I have observed in my own work, as well as in my life in general,those with a faith make a better and stronger recovery and return less often for further work. Faith communities help to provide a strong base for living life whatever the circumstances.

    1. Dear Helen Green,

      Good morning, thank you for taking the time to reply to my latest article. I totally agree that “Faith can strengthen and benefit the individual…” I too have been witness to faith’s ability to help others make a quicker recovery and make successful triumphs over the most difficult of lives challenges.

      Thank you for taking the time to reply to my latest article.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  9. I particularly appreciate the faith beyond religion piece that pushes the concept of “faith” out of the box and increases applicability to a much larger population.

    1. Dear Jennifer Jackson,

      I am sincerely appreciative of your time and feedback. It is important that we begin to see faith as a concept beyond the confines of the traditional definition of faith. Faith should capable of being expressed and defined not only by the traditional religious and spiritual realms, but as well as that of the psychological paradigm.

      I thank you for your time and review.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  10. Tracy says:

    Thank you fro the very though provoking and inspiring words. Faith is a very complex concept. A spiritual faith helps humanity keep focused on the bigger picture and not be as selfish and short sighted. Our morals and ethics are all based on a foundation of faith. Faith in ourselves, in our family, friends and strangers allows us to move forward in our day to day life. Faith in an after life allows us to live life without fear and strive to be our best, to live life to its fullest.

    Thank you again for your encouraging words.

    Tracy

    1. Dear Tracy,

      Thank you for taking the time to reply to my latest article. You are correct that “faith (can be) a very complex concept.” If I am speaking of spiritual or a religious faith, then knowing, accepting and defining my faith can sometimes be a challenge. If I am speaking of my faith in self or in another; then I have forge within myself the ability to openly trust and accept another or myself. Most importantly, we should know how to unconditionally trust, accept, approve, and love ourselves. If I do not live in an “unconditional” state as an individual, then I can never know how to unconditionally accept another. Moreover, unconditional acceptance begins within me, then it can be shared outwardly.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to reply and review my latest article.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  11. You are SO RIGHT! As faith is valuable in psych practices, so is it valuable in other specialities. I have been a pediatrician for a long time and realized many years ago that my practice was really a ministry. Supporting parents and their kids in their religious beliefs is so important in preventing use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Highschool and college kids with strong faith have later onset of sexual activity and therefore, fewer STDs.
    Thanks for this very important post! I will follow you and invite you to follow my blog at: http://www.messengersindenim.org. You can find references to the above statements and much more, on the importance of religion in pediatrics and in the home in general, in my parenting book, “Messengers in Denim”.
    I look forward to reading your next post!
    Par

    1. Dear Dr. Par Donahue,

      Thank you for taking the time to review and reply to my latest article. It is intriguing that those who either have a faith in a religious or spiritual deity, in a person, and/or in oneself, are far less likely to engage in many risky behaviors. Moreover, those who have confidence in oneself are often less likely to follow the crowd. Whereas, those who have a quivering concept of self are more likely to break when faced with lives challenges. It is important that we remain true to ourselves.

      Dr. Donahue, thank you for taking the time to offer your feedback and critical review.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.