Clergy: A Partner in Rural Mental Health?

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Abstract

Recent trends in rural mental health demonstrate increasing utilization of religious clergy for mental health service delivery. Services provided by clergy are an attractive solution to many of the barriers to rural mental health, such as the lack of accessibility, availability, and anonymity associated with services in rural areas. The religious orientation is another factor that influences the appeal to seek services for a mental health related problem from a clergy member in place of a mental health professional. Perceptions of mental health professionals, fear of judgment, and desire to incorporate religion into the therapeutic process have contributed to the demand on clergy to provide increasing amounts of therapy. Clergy report feeling inadequate and lacking in the skills needed to delivery therapy and appropriate services for mental health related issues. Collaboration between clergy and mental health professionals’ may begin to bridge the gap between the two professions while insuring that the best possible services are delivered.

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