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Durham University

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Cook, C. C. H., Powell, A. E., Sims, A. & Eagger, S. (2011). Spirituality and Secularity: Professional Boundaries in Psychiatry. Mental Health, Religion and Culture 14(1): 35-42.

Author(s) from Durham


Spirituality is assuming increasing importance in clinical practice and in research in psychiatry. This increasing salience of spirituality raises important questions about the boundaries of good professional practice. Answers to these questions require not only careful attention to defining and understanding the nature of spirituality, but also closer attention to the nature of concepts of secularity and self than psychiatry has usually given. Far from being “neutral ground,” secularity is inherently biased against concepts of transcendence. Our secular age is preoccupied with a form of immanence that emphasises interiority, autonomy and reason, but this preoccupation has paradoxically been associated with an explosion of interest in the transcendent in new, often non-religious and non-traditional forms. This context, as well as the increasing evidence base for spiritual and religious coping as important ways of dealing with mental stress and mental disorder, requires that psychiatry gives more careful attention to the ways in which people find meaning in spirituality and religion. This in turn requires that more clinical attention be routinely given to spiritual history taking and the incorporation of spiritual considerations in treatment planning.