Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. In this meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, religion and spirituality-based (R/S) therapies were found to be moderately more efficacious at post-treatment and follow-up compared to non-R/S treatments.

2. R/S treatments were also associated with improvements in symptoms and functioning compared to non-R/S treatments.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Person-centered approaches are becoming increasingly important in mental health care. Many people worldwide identify as having a religious/spiritual affiliation; therefore, including religion and spirituality-based (R/S) therapies may help provide person-centered mental health care. However, the efficacy of these approaches in patients who identify as religious/spiritual is not well understood. As a result, the present study aimed to compare R/S treatments to non-R/S psychotherapies in treating patients with a diagnosed mental illness.

Of 9,688 identified records, 23 (n=1,499 participants) randomized controlled trials were included from inception to January 2022. Studies were included if patients were 18 years or older, had a diagnosed mental health disorder according to the DSM or ICD manuals, were treated in mental health care settings, compared psychotherapy treatments with a specific religious or spiritual component to an active control group, and included quantifiable data regarding the mental health disorder that was being examined, including symptoms and functioning. Studies were excluded if they used a religious or spiritual intervention focused on mindfulness, meditation, or yoga. The primary outcome was the difference in treatment outcomes between R/S and non-R/S treatment groups.

The results demonstrated that the overall effectiveness of R/S treatments was moderately greater than non-R/S treatments at post-treatment and follow-up. The study also showed that R/S treatments were associated with improved psychological symptoms and functioning compared to non-R/S therapies. However, the study was limited by the lack of inclusion of mediating variables, such as motivation and patient preference, which may have influenced the efficacy results of the various treatments. Nonetheless, the study demonstrated that for those with a religious/spiritual affiliation, R/S treatments may be helpful in managing mental illness.

©2023 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. All rights reserved. No works may be reproduced without expressed written consent from 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. Inquire about licensing here. No article should be construed as medical advice and is not intended as such by the authors or by 2 Minute Medicine, Inc.