Section Statement


According to the WPA Section on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry (SRSP) it would be a major accomplishment if WPA would support the efforts the Section took to formulate a recognizable and thoughtful charter statement on ‘Psychiatry and Religion’. In 2006 the SRPS and the Psychiatry and Spirituality Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London (UK) started working on a statement that would be formulated to delineate WPA’s vision on ‘ Psychiatry and Religion’. For a WPA statement would have a certain impact and help to express a serviceable vision on the issue of ‘Psychiatry and Religion’ related to psychiatric practice, research and training within psychiatry worldwide. A first revised version of such a statement was published in a WPA volume on ‘Psychiatry and Religion’ (1). A second draft was presented at the Avila conference on Psychiatry and Religious Experience', November 2010, Spain. In the meantime the SIG continued its work within the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and in August 2011 a position statement drafted by ChCH Cook was accepted (2).


Is the topic ‘ Psychiatry and Religion’ to be considered worthy of such attention? The SRSP thinks it is according to WPA’s own criteria. In the first place it is a concern relevant to the further development of psychiatry around the world. The changes, the transformation of religion instead of its disappearance and the place spirituality occupies are significant to psychiatry. They require a renewed impulse for empirical and conceptual research into the distinction between religious and spiritual experiences on the one hand and pathological phenomena on the other hand. In addition, research is needed into the significance and effectiveness of religious and spiritual healing practices around the world. There are important differences in the way these phenomena and practices are approached, interpreted and evaluated, depending on cultural and sub-cultural contexts, values and sources. A second criterion would be the availability of scientific evidence. Although complex, empirical data are available and a overwhelming amount of research support these findings. That is not the problem. The problem is how to get these data, their interpretation and application noticed by mental health professionals, psychiatrists in particular. Therefore psychiatric training should be updated in order to get psychiatrists ready to readjust their attitude and to deepen their knowledge. Public visibility, as a third criterion, is high. Mental health is a political and public theme. ‘Psychiatry and Religion’ responds to this requirement. In the fourth place, would the absence of such a statement be harmful to psychiatry and to psychiatric patients? If it is true that the individual needs to be understood in his or her uniqueness and to be the focal point of clinical practice, then inevitably religion is at the heart of that patient centered focus. Religiosity and spirituality are positive, can be subject to doubt, can be corrupted, but cannot be classified as morbid or psychiatric conditions.

Therefore, the SRSP holds the view that the topic of ‘Psychiatry and Religion’ concerns psychiatry worldwide and that consequently a statement deserves priority.

We need your support as well. In the coming months you will be able to respond to the two drafts, you both drafts on this website. You can e-mail your comments. And after finishing the final draft, we will ask you to support the statement with your name and signature. Then we will offer this Section statement to the members of the executive council of WPA, ask them for their support, and hopefully they will allow us to have the statement published in World Psychiatry, WPA’s Journal.


1. Verhagen PJ, Cook ChCH. Epilogue: Proposal for a World Psychiatric Association consensus or position statement on spirituality and religion in psychiatry. In: Verhagen PJ, Van Praag HM, López-Ibor JJ, Cox Jl, Moussaoui D (eds). Religion and psychiatry. Beyond boundaries. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010: 615-631.

2. Royal College of Psychiatrists, London. Recommendations for psychiatrists on spirituality and religion. Position Statement 2011 (PS03/2011).