Ministers' perceptions of church-based programs to provide depression care for African Americans

J Urban Health. 2013 Aug;90(4):685-98. doi: 10.1007/s11524-013-9794-y.


African Americans, compared with white Americans, underutilize mental health services for major depressive disorder. Church-based programs are effective in reducing racial disparities in health; however, the literature on church-based programs for depression is limited. The purpose of this study was to explore ministers' perceptions about depression and the feasibility of utilizing the church to implement evidence-based assessments and psychotherapy for depression. From August 2011 to March 2012, data were collected from three focus groups conducted with adult ministers (n = 21) from a black mega-church in New York City. Using consensual qualitative research to analyze data, eight main domains emerged: definition of depression, identification of depression, causal factors, perceived responsibilities, limitations, assessment, group interpersonal psychotherapy, and stigma. A major finding was that ministers described depression within a context of vast suffering due to socioeconomic inequalities (e.g., financial strain and unstable housing) in many African American communities. Implementing evidence-based assessments and psychotherapy in a church was deemed feasible if principles of community-based participatory research were utilized and safeguards to protect participants' confidentiality were employed. In conclusion, ministers were enthusiastic about the possibility of implementing church-based programs for depression care and emphasized partnering with academic researchers throughout the implementation process. More research is needed to identify effective, multidisciplinary interventions that address social inequalities which contribute to racial disparities in depression treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / ethnology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Mental Health Services / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City
  • Professional Role
  • Protestantism / psychology*
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Psychotherapy / organization & administration
  • Psychotherapy / standards*
  • Religion and Psychology