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Help-Seeking from Clergy and Spiritual Counselors Among Veterans with Depression and PTSD in Primary Care

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Bonner, L., A. Lanto, C. Bolkan, G. Watson, D. Campbell, E. Chaney, Kara Zivin, and L. Rubenstein. 2013. "Help-Seeking from Clergy and Spiritual Counselors Among Veterans with Depression and PTSD in Primary Care." Journal of Religion and Health, 52: 707-718.

Little is known about the prevalence or predictors of seeking help for depression and PTSD from spiritual counselors and clergy. We describe openness to and actual help-seeking from spiritual counselors among primary care patients with depression. We screened consecutive VA primary care patients for depression; 761 Veterans with probable major depression participated in telephone surveys (at baseline, 7 months, and 18 months). Participants were asked about (1) openness to seeking help for emotional problems from spiritual counselors/clergy and (2) actual contact with spiritual counselors/clergy in the past 6 months. At baseline, almost half of the participants, 359 (47.2 %), endorsed being "very" or "somewhat likely" to seek help for emotional problems from spiritual counselors; 498 (65.4 %) were open to a primary care provider, 486 (63.9 %) to a psychiatrist, and 409 (66.5 %) to another type of mental health provider. Ninety-one participants (12 %) reported actual spiritual counselor/clergy consultation. Ninety-five (10.3 %) participants reported that their VA providers had recently asked them about spiritual support; the majority of these found this discussion helpful. Participants with current PTSD symptoms, and those with a mental health visit in the past 6 months, were more likely to report openness to and actual help-seeking from clergy. Veterans with depression and PTSD are amenable to receiving help from spiritual counselors/clergy and other providers. Integration of spiritual counselors/clergy into care teams may be helpful to Veterans with PTSD. Training of such providers to address PTSD specifically may also be desirable.

DOI:10.1007/s10943-012-9671-0 (Full Text)

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