An analysis of the therapeutic elements in a black church service

Hosp Community Psychiatry. 1984 May;35(5):464-9. doi: 10.1176/ps.35.5.464.


Twenty members of an independent urban black church who frequently attended a midweek service were interviewed to determine the nature of their experiences during the service and to assess its psychological impact. The majority were relatively young, married, and from a Northern urban or Southern rural background. Their responses differed for each of four selected aspects of the service. Testimony was an ineffable and explicitly religious experience. Holy Ghost possession provided an emotionally ecstatic feeling that also produced a sense of relief. Dancing and speaking in tongues were intense individualistic experiences; speaking in tongues was a more explicitly religious phenomenon. The service as a whole imparted feelings of group closeness and strength. The authors note that participants' responses correspond to several curative factors associated with group psychotherapy and suggest that the black church service is a functional community mental health resource for its participants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Connecticut
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Healing*
  • Middle Aged
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Social Support