Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 53, Issue 6, pp 1800–1814 | Cite as

Indian Health Care Professionals’ Attitude Towards Spiritual Healing and Its Role in Alleviating Stigma of Psychiatric Services

  • P. RamakrishnanEmail author
  • A. Rane
  • A. Dias
  • J. Bhat
  • A. Shukla
  • S. Lakshmi
  • B. K. Ansari
  • R. S. Ramaswamy
  • R. A. Reddy
  • A. Tribulato
  • A. K. Agarwal
  • N. SatyaPrasad
  • A. Mushtaq
  • P. H. Rao
  • P. Murthy
  • H. G. Koenig
Original Paper


Persons with mental illnesses in India and rest of developing world continue to consult religious/spiritual (R/S) healers or traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (TCAM) professionals prior to seeking psychiatric services that are devoid of spiritual components of care. We aim to understand TCAM and allopathic professionals’ perspectives on patients’ R/S needs within mental health services, cross-sectional study was conducted at five TCAM and two allopathic tertiary care hospitals in three different Indian states; 393 participants completed RSMPP, a self-administered, semi-structured survey questionnaire. Perspectives of TCAM and allopathic health professionals on role of spirituality in mental health care were compared. Substantial percentage, 43.7 % TCAM and 41.3 % allopathic, of participants believe that their patients approach R/S or TCAM practitioners for severe mental illness; 91.2 % of TCAM and 69.7 % of allopaths were satisfied with R/S healers (p = 0.0019). Furthermore, 91.1 % TCAM and 73.1 % allopaths (p = 0.000) believe that mental health stigma can be minimized by integrating with spiritual care services. Overall, 87 % of TCAM and 73 % of allopaths agreed to primary criterion variable: ‘spiritual healing is beneficial and complementary to psychiatric care.’ A quarter of allopaths (24.4 %) and 38 % of TCAM physicians reportedly cross-refer their grieving patients to religious/TCAM healer and psychiatrist/psychologist, respectively; on logistic regression, significant (p < 0.05) predictors were clinical interactions/references to r/s healers. Providing spiritual care within the setup of psychiatric institution will not only complement psychiatric care but also alleviate stigma against mental health services. Implications on developing spiritual care services like clinical chaplaincy are discussed.


Stigma Spirituality Chaplaincy Integrative Psychiatry Ayurveda TCAM Mental illness 



This study was made possible by the generosity in time, personal and financial support of HELP and AdiBhat Foundations in USA and India, respectively. HELP Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Omaha, NE, USA, serving the underprivileged population with its community-based urgent care clinics. AdiBhat is a nonprofit organization founded in New Delhi to develop spirituality as a medical subject. We would like to profusely thank Dr. F. A. Curlin (University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, USA) for providing their RSMPP survey questionnaire and allowing us to adapt it to the cultural and technical needs of our study in India. We appreciate the support of Dr. Vijay Kumar, Commissioner of the State department of AYUSH, for permitting us to conduct the study at the AYUSH institutes in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. We would sincerely thank Dean, Dr. V. N. Jindal, for his permission to conduct the study at Goa Medical College, Goa. Thanks to Dr. M. S. Kulkarni at Goa Medical College and Dr. S. Gandham, University of Washington, for their invaluable statistical inputs. We also like to appreciate all the staff at HELP Foundation for participating in the focus group discussions and other research processes leading to the development of our supplementary survey questionnaire. Finally, we would like to thank all our research respondents for donating their invaluable time and providing their opinions and perspectives toward a successful completion of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Ramakrishnan
    • 1
    • 10
    • 14
    Email author
  • A. Rane
    • 2
  • A. Dias
    • 3
  • J. Bhat
    • 4
  • A. Shukla
    • 5
  • S. Lakshmi
    • 6
  • B. K. Ansari
    • 7
  • R. S. Ramaswamy
    • 8
  • R. A. Reddy
    • 9
  • A. Tribulato
    • 10
  • A. K. Agarwal
    • 10
  • N. SatyaPrasad
    • 5
  • A. Mushtaq
    • 7
  • P. H. Rao
    • 11
  • P. Murthy
    • 12
  • H. G. Koenig
    • 13
  1. 1.AdiBhat FoundationNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Institute of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorBambolimIndia
  3. 3.Deptartment of Preventive and Social MedicineGoa Medical CollegeBambolimIndia
  4. 4.Deptartment of PediatricsGoa Medical CollegeBambolimIndia
  5. 5.B.R.K.R. Govt. Ayurvedic Medical CollegeHyderabadIndia
  6. 6.Gandhi Naturopathic Medical CollegeHyderabadIndia
  7. 7.Central Research Institute of Unani MedicineHyderabadIndia
  8. 8.National Institute of Siddha Medical SciencesChennaiIndia
  9. 9.J.S.P.S Govt. Homeopathic Medical CollegeHyderabadIndia
  10. 10.HELP Foundation of OmahaOmahaUSA
  11. 11.Sweekaar-Upkaar Rehabilitation Institute for HandicappedOsmania UniversitySecunderabadIndia
  12. 12.National Institute of Mental Health and NeuroSciencesBangaloreIndia
  13. 13.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  14. 14.Center for Study of World Religions (CSWR), Harvard Divinity SchoolHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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