All in faith: Religion as the idiom and means of coping with distress

Samuel C. Heilman, Eliezer Witztum

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Scopus citations


    This paper describes the way that people for whom religion is at the heart of their cultural and personal life try to cope with their problems via religious dogma or practise. It illustrates this through the three cases drawn from the ultra-Orthodox Jews of Jerusalem. The first describes a situation wherein religious beliefs and practises become the patient's vehicle for configuring and articulating his disorder. The second and third illustrate a situation wherein religion provides a means for the believers to relate to and create a religious structure and meaning around it and thus help organize their lives and cope with the pain of their disorder. In all three cases, their religious beliefs and practices furnish these patients with a means of de-stigmatizing the illness (something of no or little importance where even the slightest stigma has far-reaching social and interpersonal negative consequences) and redefining it in acceptable religious narratives or spiritual terms. This in turn makes therapy and treatment personally and culturally acceptable. For the therapists, the religious beliefs and practises offer help in identifying the disorder or act as agents in its treatment or even bases for rehabilitation. The paper suggests that understanding this complex relationship facilitates the therapeutic process considerably.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)115-124
    Number of pages10
    JournalMental Health, Religion and Culture
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 1 Jan 2000

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Clinical Psychology
    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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