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When God Goes to Therapy

A new generation of psychologists finds that a spiritual approach to treatment can help patients heal.

The psychologist David Rosmarin recently treated a patient who was still grieving over the devastating car wreck that had left her infant niece a quadriplegic more than 13 years earlier.The woman was unable to get past the tragedy. If God had allowed such a thing to happen to an innocent child, she reasoned, then anyone, herself included, could be struck down at any time. The thought filled her with anxiety, and she was losing her faith.While an earlier generation of psychologists might have treated her anxiety with traditional therapies—and referred her religious questions to a spiritual adviser—Rosmarin, a faculty member of the department of psychiatry at Harvard University and an assistant psychologist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, took a different approach. He decided to incorporate his patient’s faith into a regimen of cognitive behavioral therapy, using their sessions to help the woman think about God’s influence on the world in a more positive way. After weeks of therapy, her anxiety was reduced and she was eventually able get off medication.Rosmarin is among a small but growing n …

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