Clinical and Research News
Speakers Find Symposium Enlightening
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 13 page 19-19

After a symposium on religion, spirituality, and mental health (see article above), Psychiatric News asked several of the speakers what aspects of the symposium had impressed them the most. Here are some replies:

"The main thing that impressed me," Dan Blazer II, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at Duke University, said, "was the upsurge in interest in spirituality among a group of fairly senior psychiatrists—psychiatrists who have watched the field evolve over many years.... In addition, the type of conversation that is emerging regarding spirituality and psychiatry is much more mature, much more critical in a positive and constructive sense, and much less combative than in the past. We are witnessing real progress in expanding the conversation and serious scholarly pursuits."

"I was most impressed with the diversity of the psychiatrists in attendance—ethically, religiously, geographically," Mary Lynn Dell, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Emory University, commented. "There was also equal interest from early career, mid career, and seasoned psychiatrists."

As for Samuel Thielman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Office of Mental Health Services at the U.S. Department of State, and who stressed that the views expressed are his own, not those of his employer, he "was impressed by the professional stature of the presenters, given that the presentation was on a topic that is sometimes considered to be of peripheral interest to many psychiatrists. I was also encouraged by the expressions of interest in `protective factors' in contradistinction to risk factors—religion and spirituality being seen by most of the presenters as having the potential for being protective in some circumstances. Finally, I was impressed by the fact that, as psychiatrists, we are moving toward a more broadly based fund of knowledge, one that looks more at human beings in all their complexity, and moves away from biological reductionism and an excessive interest in pharmaceutical agents."

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