Religious Community Partnerships: a Novel Approach to Teaching Psychiatry Residents about Religious and Cultural Factors in the Mental Health Care of African-Americans

  • Faith R. Kelley
  • Gretchen L. Haas
  • Emily Felber
  • Michael J. Travis
  • Esa M. Davis
In Brief Report



Promoting awareness in residency training about the influence of religion on the doctor’s and patient’s ability to negotiate a patient-centered treatment plan is challenging and yet important for improving the quality of mental health care for religious individuals. This paper aims to explore the use of community partners and non-psychiatry faculty to provide this education within psychiatry residency programs.


Fifty-one psychiatry residents at an academic psychiatric hospital took part in a 4-h interdisciplinary workshop aimed at improving doctors’ overall approach to treating African-American Christian patients. Community-based African-American clergy and mental health professionals, hospital-based psychiatrists, and primary care physicians facilitated educational sessions. A majority of the facilitators were African-American. A pre- and post-workshop survey was administered to measure change in participant attitudes and comfort levels associated with exposure to the workshop. Paired t tests on three subscales were used to calculate change in attitudes on pre- to post-workshop surveys.


Resident scores on each of the three factor subscales increased significantly between pre- and post-workshop assessments: comfort in discussions with patients about spirituality [t [17] = 2.758; p = 0.013]; willingness to collaborate with clergy [t [16] = 3.776; p = 0.002]; and importance of religion to mental health [t [17] = 3.645; p = 0.002].


Findings suggest that collaboration between academic and community-based clergy, physicians, and other mental health providers may be a feasible method of improving psychiatry trainees’ comfort in addressing religion in psychiatric care to ultimately provide more culturally competent care.


Evaluation Residents Cross-cultural psychiatry 


Funding Sources

This study was supported, in part, by the American Psychiatric Association/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (APA/SAMHSA) Minority Fellowship Program awarded to Dr. Faith Kelley.

Compliance with Ethical Standards/Ethical Consideration

The Institutional Review Board of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center approved the study procedures in advance and gave an “exempt” status. Study aims were explained to participants in advance and informed consent was obtained in writing before the workshop.


On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Academic Psychiatry 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Children’s National Health SystemWashington, DCUSA
  2. 2.VA Pittsburgh Healthcare SystemPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.University of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  4. 4.PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. ConsortiumPalo AltoUSA

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