Health Matters

Connecting you to the sources of health.

Spirituality and Mental Health

How your beliefs make a difference

There is a difference in patients with a positive spiritual orientation and those without one. Studies show that a positive spiritual orientation helps people cope, and makes them resilient in the face of life's challenges.  Those patients who think their illness or condition is a punishment have a negative spiritual orientation, which only excerbates their problems and symptoms. Being aware of one's beliefs, values, and spiritual perspective are essential elements of self-knowledge. A spiritual director can help in this regard.

A 'spiritual director' is trained to guide individuals in finding meaning in life, discovering purpose and values, and determing suitable spiritual practices. Most faith traditions have spiritual directors, though they are not always called 'spiritual directors', they offer spiritual guidance. There are spiritual directors who work across all faith traditions as well as with people who have agnostic or atheistic views. Typically, spiritual directors work one on one, much like therapy, but may only have contact with a client once a month, or every six months or more. Do your homework before selecting a spiritual director. Ask about their background, training and orientation, and interview at least three spiritual directors before deciding on one. 

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I interviewed a spiritual director this month. A free download is available on

Robert J. Hedaya, M.D., D.F.A.P.A., is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Georgetown University Hospital and Founder of the National Center for Whole Psychiatry.


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