Religion and beliefs about treating medically unexplained symptoms: a survey of primary care physicians and psychiatrists.
OBJECTIVE: Historical evidence and prior research suggest that psychiatry is biased against religion, and religious physicians are biased against the mental health professions. Here we examine whether religious and non-religious physicians differ in their treatment recommendations for a patient with medically unexplained symptoms. METHOD: We conducted a national survey of primary care physicians and psychiatrists. We presented a vignette of a patient with medically unexplained symptoms, and experimentally varied whether the patient was religiously observant. We asked whether physicians would recommend six interventions: antidepressant medication, in-office counseling, referral to a psychiatrist, referral to a psychologist or licensed counselor, participation in meaningful relationships and activities, and involvement in religious community. Predictors included the physician's specialty and the physician's attendance at religious services. RESULTS: The response rate was 63% (896 of 1427) primary care physicians and 64% (312 of 487) psychiatrists. We did not find evidence that religious physicians were less likely to recommend mental health resources, nor did we find evidence that psychiatrists were less likely to recommend religious involvement. Primary care physicians (but not psychiatrists) were more likely to recommend that the patient get more involved in their religious community when the patient was more religiously observant, and when the physician more frequently attended services. CONCLUSIONS: We did not find evidence that mental health professionals are biased against religion, nor that religious physicians are biased against mental health professionals. Historical tensions are potentially being replaced by collaboration.
Lawrence, RE; Rasinski, KA; Yoon, JD; Curlin, FA
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