Help-Seeking from Clergy and Spiritual Counselors Among Veterans with Depression and PTSD in Primary Care
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Little is known about the prevalence or predictors of seeking help for depression and PTSD from spiritual counselors and clergy. We describe openness to and actual help-seeking from spiritual counselors among primary care patients with depression. We screened consecutive VA primary care patients for depression; 761 Veterans with probable major depression participated in telephone surveys (at baseline, 7 months, and 18 months). Participants were asked about (1) openness to seeking help for emotional problems from spiritual counselors/clergy and (2) actual contact with spiritual counselors/clergy in the past 6 months. At baseline, almost half of the participants, 359 (47.2 %), endorsed being “very” or “somewhat likely” to seek help for emotional problems from spiritual counselors; 498 (65.4 %) were open to a primary care provider, 486 (63.9 %) to a psychiatrist, and 409 (66.5 %) to another type of mental health provider. Ninety-one participants (12 %) reported actual spiritual counselor/clergy consultation. Ninety-five (10.3 %) participants reported that their VA providers had recently asked them about spiritual support; the majority of these found this discussion helpful. Participants with current PTSD symptoms, and those with a mental health visit in the past 6 months, were more likely to report openness to and actual help-seeking from clergy. Veterans with depression and PTSD are amenable to receiving help from spiritual counselors/clergy and other providers. Integration of spiritual counselors/clergy into care teams may be helpful to Veterans with PTSD. Training of such providers to address PTSD specifically may also be desirable.