A test of faith in God and treatment: the relationship of belief in God to psychiatric treatment outcomes

J Affect Disord. 2013 Apr 25;146(3):441-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.08.030. Epub 2012 Oct 7.


Background: Belief in God is very common and tied to mental health/illness in the general population, yet its relevance to psychiatric patients has not been adequately studied. We examined relationships between belief in God and treatment outcomes, and identified mediating mechanisms.

Methods: We conducted a prospective study with n=159 patients in a day-treatment program at an academic psychiatric hospital. Belief in God, treatment credibility/expectancy, emotion regulation and congregational support were assessed prior to treatment. Primary outcomes were treatment response as well as degree of reduction in depression over treatment. Secondary outcomes were improvements in psychological well-being and reduction in self-harm.

Results: Belief in God was significantly higher among treatment responders than non-responders F(1,114)=4.81, p<.05. Higher levels of belief were also associated with greater reductions in depression (r=.21, p<.05) and self-harm (r=.24, p<.01), and greater improvements in psychological well-being (r=.19, p<.05) over course of treatment. Belief remained correlated with changes in depression and self-harm after controlling for age and gender. Perceived treatment credibility/expectancy, but not emotional regulation or community support, mediated relationships between belief in God and reductions in depression. No variables mediated relationships to other outcomes. Religious affiliation was also associated with treatment credibility/expectancy but not treatment outcomes.

Conclusions: Belief in God, but not religious affiliation, was associated with better treatment outcomes. With respect to depression, this relationship was mediated by belief in the credibility of treatment and expectations for treatment gains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult