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The Spirituality & Mental Health Core Workgroup formed in late 2006 to find effective, collaborative means to lead the public mental health system in California to inquire about, embrace, and support the spiritual lives of the people it serves or desires to serve. This includes individuals from diverse, multicultural communities, and people who are bilingual and monolingual. Spirituality and religion can be important components of recovery, and they have too often been overlooked, minimized, and many times labeled as pathology, leaving consumers with little hope for themselves and their futures. We acknowledge that there are numerous barriers – including political, legal, and cultural -- between the public mental health system and spirituality/religion which need to be addressed thoughtfully, systematically, and with great care*.

Spirituality and faith communities are necessary elements in recovery for many persons who receive or are in need of mental health services.


  • Spirituality can be a powerful tool to inspire hope, create motivation, and promote healing.

  • Many persons from diverse, multicultural communities utilize spiritual and/or faith-based organizations as a source of social support and hope in their healing process.

  • Spirituality is an essential part of how people understand themselves and their world; it is not something separate.

  • Some people experience altered states of being with a spiritual component that can support the journey of recovery. For some, this can be a life-changing event.

  • Often this spiritual component is ignored, labeled, or confused with delusions or other symptoms.

  • Faith communities and spirituality can be a source of coping and social support
    for those struggling with the impact of mental health issues: poverty,
    homelessness, loss of meaning and purpose, stigma, isolation, etc.


We also understand that some individuals and families have experienced traumatic interactions with religious communities. In these instances, it is important to provide a safe environment for talking about these experiences in an open and accepting way.

Spirituality is a core value of multicultural sensitivity, which asks practitioners in the mental health care system to be able to understand different worldviews. By integrating spirituality and multicultural factors into treatment, a greater appreciation for the “whole person” is emerging in the mental health field.

Understanding spirituality as an element in mental health recovery brings us closer to dealing with the whole person. We know that physical health can influence an individual’s mental health. The same is true for spirituality.

We are also attentive to the spiritual needs of those who provide services. They may need spiritual support to avoid, or cope with, burnout and to continue to bring their best selves to their work, year after year.



* For purposes of this concept paper, we utilize the following definitions. Spirituality is a person’s deepest sense of
belonging and connection to a higher power or life philosophy which may not necessarily be related to an organized
church or religious institution. A religion is an organization that is guided by a codified set of beliefs and practices
held by a community, whose members adhere to a worldview of the holy and sacred that is supported by religious
rituals. Many people in the United States describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” This may include and
is not limited to atheists, agnostics, and humanists. Faith refers to confidence or trust in a set of religious principles
or beliefs, including beliefs about the divine and beliefs that may not be based on proof. Faith-based organizations,
including places of worship and nonprofit organizations, have a long tradition of helping people in need and are an
integral part of the social service network. We use the term practice-based organizations in order to be inclusive of
traditions that do not include elements of faith or doctrine, but share a commitment to cultivating certain practices,
such as meditation.

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