September 2017 Article of the Month
SUMMARY and COMMENT: Our authors this month hold their study to be “the first…to test the potential role of God imagery in influencing affective outcomes in psychiatric care” [p. 321]. Their focus is on how patients enter and leave psychiatric treatment imagining a God’s-eye view of them, plus the potential importance of experiences of religious/spiritual (R/S) comforts and strains. Patients seeking psychiatric care can espouse a range of views regarding the divine, including benevolent and loving, punitive and cruel, or disinterested and distant from human affairs…. Understanding the affective consequences of such God images may clarify intervention targets of spiritually integrative approaches with patients who are drawing on their faith systems in adaptive and maladaptive ways. [p. 317] This research works both from general studies regarding attachment figures [–see Related Items of Interest, #I, below], supporting the idea that “God images broadly refer to internalized working models of a divine attachment figure (e.g., Allah, Buddha, Jesus Christ) and experience of self in the context of relationship with this deity” [p. 318] and from the authors’ own previous research that linked patients’ experiences of R/S comforts and strains to psychiatric symptomology and to outcomes [–see Related Items of Interest, #II, below]. Data were analyzed from 241 adult psychiatric inpatients at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services (Grand Rapids, MI) between 2013 and 2015. The sample was predominantly Christian (59.2% Protestant; 14.6% Roman Catholic) but also involved patients from other traditions (2.3%), those with no religious affiliation (10%), and those who identified as spiritual but not religious (15%) [–see Table 1, p. 319]. Participants were surveyed within 48 hours of admission and at discharge, with an average length of stay being 7.19 days (SD = 3.89). Measures included the question: “When God looks at you, how would God describe you?” plus the Religious Comforts and Strain Scale (Exline) and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS-X). The open-ended question was assessed by a Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count program “focused on two domains, Positive Emotion and Negative Emotion, which are subsequently referred to as Positive God Imagery and Negative God Imagery, respectively” [p. 319]. A “chaplain or chaplaincy intern completed the consenting procedure and oversaw completion of the study measures at the two assessments” [p. 319].