How psychiatrists think about religious and spiritual beliefs in clinical practice: findings from a university hospital in São Paulo, Brazil


Braz. J. Psychiatry.




Objective: To examine the relationship between psychiatrists’ religious/spiritual beliefs and their attitudes regarding religion and spirituality in clinical practice. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of religion/spirituality (R/S) in clinical practice was conducted with 121 psychiatrists from the largest academic hospital complex in Brazil. Results: When asked about their R/S beliefs, participants were more likely to consider themselves as spiritual rather than religious. A total of 64.2% considered their religious beliefs to influence their clinical practice and 50% reported that they frequently enquired about their patients’ R/S. The most common barriers to approaching patients’ religiosity were: lack of time (27.4%), fear of exceeding the role of the doctor (25%), and lack of training (19.1%). Those who were less religious or spiritual were also less likely to find difficulties in addressing a patient’s R/S. Conclusion: Differences in psychiatrists’ religious and spiritual beliefs are associated with different attitudes concerning their approach to R/S. The results suggest that medical practice may lead to a religious conflict among devout psychiatrists, making them question their faith. Training might be of importance for handling R/S in clinical practice and for raising awareness about potential evaluative biases in the assessment of patients’ religiosity.

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