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Clin Psychol Rev. 2001 Oct;21(7):989-1003.

A social cognitive perspective on religious beliefs: their functions and impact on coping and psychotherapy.

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  • 1Nova Southeastern University, USA.

Abstract

Religious beliefs are an important part of clients' culture, whether acknowledged or not. Psychological theories about social and cognitive processes can help mental-health professionals better understand the function of religious beliefs in coping and their role in therapy. Religious individuals are likely to use heuristics to form rapid judgments rather than engage in formal information-gathering processes. The confirmatory and in-group/out-group biases support such judgments and shield them from disconfirmatory evidence. Religious beliefs provide order and understanding to an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable world. Many religions advocate forgiveness, which is often helpful in resolving conflicts. Another beneficial religious belief is an ever-present spiritual attachment figure. Negative effects of religion include its exercising aversive control to maintain conformity and its promoting an external locus of control. In contrast, mental-health professionals belong to a tradition of free inquiry and self-development, and guide clients to acquire competencies necessary to change and direct their lives. Therapist attitudes are far less likely to include allegiance to religion than are those of the public and psychiatric patients. Rather than being biased against religion or trying to debate religion, therapists need to engage in problem solving with clients in the context of this example of sociocultural factors.

PMID:
11584519
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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