2. Triple Whammy—HIV, Mental Disorders, African Americans
Role of Spirituality
Because spirituality holds a significant place in many African Americans’ lives, churches and other religious organizations often serve as a source of support for individuals who are As discussed above, dealing with mental health issues. [Hollar 2007] Hollar and colleagues suggest that practitioners who are treating African American clients may need to assess the extent of each individual’s religious or spiritual involvement, because church membership may serve as “a protective factor and a good prognostic indicator for treatment.
Discontinuation of church attendance could be an indicator of degree of functional impairment and may provide temporal information regarding the onset of depressive symptomatology.” The researchers further suggest that practitioners may consider recommending becoming or remaining involved with a church (if that is consistent with the client’s beliefs) to provide both social support and a motive for behavioral change in dealing with whatever emotional problems they may be experiencing.
Perdue and colleagues investigated the value of spirituality as a therapeutic tool for African Americans with mental disorders. [Perdue 2006] The investigators observe that, although spiritual and psychotherapeutic perspectives may be regarded as contradictory, for African Americans, these perspectives can reinforce each other.
They assert that spirituality can serve as a resource of strength by providing emotional consolation, inspiration, guidance, and security and can foster personal responsibility, respect for ethical norms, and community building. They conclude that, in treating African Americans, mental health practitioners who employ spirituality as a therapeutic tool may find that their clients experience better outcomes, as compared with practitioners who do not employ spirituality in their work with African American clients.