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Spirituality and psychiatry in Canada: Psychiatric practice compared with patient expectations

Baetz, M., Griffin, R., Bowen, R., & Marcoux, G. (2004). Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(4), 265-271

Objective. This study compares psychiatrists' and psychiatric patients' practice, attitudes, and expectations regarding spirituality and religion.Method. We mailed surveys to all Canadian psychiatrists registered with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (n = 2890). The response rate was 42% (n = 1204). We recruited patients from a Canadian on-line survey (n = 67) and from a local mental health clinic (n = 90).Results. Psychiatrists had lower levels of beliefs and practices than did patients and the general population. In both groups, 47% felt there was "often or always" a place to include spirituality in psychiatric assessment, although the perceived importance differed. Among patients, 53% felt it important to have this issue addressed, and 24% considered the psychiatrist's spiritual interest important in their choice of psychiatrist. Barriers to addressing the issue of spirituality and mental health related to psychiatrists' concern regarding its appropriateness and patients' perception that interest is lacking. Psychiatrists' own beliefs and practices were strong predictors of spiritual inquiry.Conclusions. Although psychiatrists report lower levels of spiritual and religious belief than do patients, they acknowledge that it is important to include this topic in patient care. Increased discussion and education may lower reported barriers to including spirituality and religion in routine psychiatric assessment.

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