Faith-adapted psychological therapies for depression and anxiety: Systematic review and meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2015 May 1:176:183-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.01.019. Epub 2015 Jan 21.


Background: Incorporating faith (religious or spiritual) perspectives into psychological treatments has attracted significant interest in recent years. However, previous suggestion that good psychiatric care should include spiritual components has provoked controversy. To try to address ongoing uncertainty in this field we present a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the efficacy of faith-based adaptations of bona fide psychological therapies for depression or anxiety.

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials were performed.

Results: The literature search yielded 2274 citations of which 16 studies were eligible for inclusion. All studies used cognitive or cognitive behavioural models as the basis for their faith-adapted treatment (F-CBT). We identified statistically significant benefits of using F-CBT. However, quality assessment using the Cochrane risk of bias tool revealed methodological limitations that reduce the apparent strength of these findings.

Limitations: Whilst the effect sizes identified here were statistically significant, there were relatively a few relevant RCTs available, and those included were typically small and susceptible to significant biases. Biases associated with researcher or therapist allegiance were identified as a particular concern.

Conclusions: Despite some suggestion that faith-adapted CBT may out-perform both standard CBT and control conditions (waiting list or "treatment as usual"), the effect sizes identified in this meta-analysis must be considered in the light of the substantial methodological limitations that affect the primary research data. Before firm recommendations about the value of faith-adapted treatments can be made, further large-scale, rigorously performed trials are required.

Keywords: Anxiety; Cognitive behavioural therapy; Depression; Psychological therapy; Religion; Spirituality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Bias
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Faith Healing*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic