This course examines the problem of mental illness. There is an emphasis on analyzing various programs and approaches to people with mental illness. Students evaluate spiritual programs that serve this population. There is an introduction to spiritually-modified psychotherapies and how they may be used in this context. Those who take this course examine various programs created by local churches that serve this population.
Research indicates that people with a mental illness will often go to clergy before going to a mental health professional. Therefore, local church leaders need to be equipped and ready to work with this vulnerable population. The utilization of religion and spirituality in mental health is associated with positive outcomes. This allows students to provide necessary spiritual services for people with mental illness in their community.
There has been an awakening in the field of social work to the importance of religion and spirituality in the lives of those they serve. This course is unique in its encouragement of the role of the local church as well as the involvement of individual Christians in the lives of those with serious mental illness. It is practical, hands-on, and provides the student with the tools, skills, and knowledge to serve the mentally ill population in their community.
The biblical foundation for this course can be found in 3 John 2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” This prayer and wish from the Elder to Gaius combines physical, mental, and spiritual wholeness and might also be the wish for all people. Jesus himself healed all who had various kinds of sickness (Luke 4:40). The salvation that Jesus brought to humankind covers not only the spiritual (soul), but also for the body and mind as well. God desires human beings to be made whole, so spiritual care giving to those who are facing mental illness is important.
Spiritual caregiving for the mentally ill fulfills God’s purpose of wholeness for people created by God. As students go through this course, they see themselves as God’s instrument in bringing about this wholeness. In so doing they are fulfilling God’s mission and purpose as Jesus and his disciples did when they went out to preach and brought healing to those who were sick.
Mental illness is treated in many different contexts. Some of these contexts may be in the hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and even at home. Students examine all these contexts and become familiar with the ethics and processes of giving spiritual care in all these different contexts.
The cultural context in which spiritual care is given to the mentally ill is very important. Understanding the person’s culture and its impact on spirituality and healing is the focus for students. This helps students to approach spiritual caregiving to the whole person. Jesus used culture to approach healing when he asked the man who was cured of leprosy to go show himself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded as testimony.
Apart from students doing readings and other classroom work, this course is designed for practical hand-on experience. Students are required to do spiritual care giving to people with mental illness. They interact with the mentally ill, conducting spiritual assessments, and developing care plan and doing various interventions.
Students submit two clinical cases of their spiritual caregiving to mentally ill persons and write a verbatim/case report to be discussed in class. Students reflect theologically and psychologically on their caregiving and evaluate their assessment and interventions. This provides students with the knowledge, tools, and skills in ministering spiritually to the mentally ill.