Mental Health and Religion

The featured book is ‘Mental Health and Religion’ by Kate Loewenthal. Loewenthal has written an interesting book which asks many questions about the interaction between mental health and religion. This book is very different from ‘The Handbook of Mental Health and Religion’ by Harold Koenig which identifies a vast collection of material and is a valuable reference work. Whilst this book is also scholarly, the book in my opinion is written in a way that encourages introspection. Loewenthal considers the relationship of psychoanalysis to religion and suggests that some of the meaning behind Freud’s works have been lost in translation and that his concept of psychoanalysis was a deeply spiritual one. This is consistent with what I perceive as the more distant origins of psychoanalysis not with hysteria at the turn of the nineteenth century but with mesmerism in the mid to late eighteenth century. Loewenthal turns then to religious communities where prevalence rates of mental illness differ from those of the general population where I would suggest however that explanations may lie not just in the influences on culture.

Loewenthal considers conversion and the circumstances surrounding this process and the possible relationships with mental health and mental illness. This discussion is supported with a number of vignettes. There follows a consideration of gender roles with complex interactions. Loewenthal writes a very interesting chapter on the relationship of self-righteousness to mental health  with consideration of intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientation as well as a discussion of some of the difficulties inherent in the California F scale. In this chapter, guilt and shame are covered, the former being attributed to the ‘internalised idealised parent’ and the latter to ‘the effect of the superego, internalised threat’.

Loewenthal then suggests some of the ways in which religion might lead to improved mental health including social support, spiritual support (including issues of faith), beliefs and values, maturity and religious experiences, the latter being a complex topic examined famously by William James. What are the religious views of therapists and the question of bridging the gap which is a very sensitive area. In a chapter on ‘Cognitive Theories of Mental Illness’, Loewenthal looks at three important dimensions of causality – internal/external, stable/unstable and global/specific when looking at the interaction of attribution with religion.


William James. The Varienties of Religious Experience. Collier. New York. 1902.

Harold Koenig. Handbook of Religion and Mental Health. Academic Press. 1st Edition. 1998.

Kate Loewenthal. Mental Health and Religion. Chapman and Hall. First Edition. 1995.


The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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