Treating religion

Cpt_pineapple
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Treating religion

Just a little thought experiment that crossed my mind

 

 

Say you are a psychologist and you are treating a 19 year old girl who says that God wants her to shoot herself.

 

How would you start? How would you try to cure her?

 

 

 


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Wouldn't the easiest way be

Wouldn't the easiest way be to tell her that god probably wants no such thing for her?  The existence of god or her belief in it/her religion are incidental to her trying to kill herself.  Convincing her that god does not want her to shoot herself would work best.  Then deal with what else is wrong with her (like being depressed or suicidal and putting the blame for it, subconsciously, on a sky daddy that promises a better life after she ends her miserable one).

Another approach, which would probably be considered unethical, would be to challenge her god's existence and help her to understand that it doesn't exist and then to get to the root of her disorder.

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  I would tell her to not

  I would tell her to not use anything smaller than a .40 caliber and to place the barrel above her ear, not against her temple.

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If she was hot, I'd tell her

If she was hot, I'd tell her "I just talked to God, he doesn't want you to kill yourself. He wants you to have sex with me."

 

But then they'd never let me be a psychologist in the first place.

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Capt_pineapple wrote:How would you start,How would you try to --

--cure her? Well,first I would tell her not to listen to her God,then I would tell her to read "The Story of Thought:A Essential Guide to Western Philosophy"and "The God Delusion"and then tell her to go to the library an get the DVD " A History of Disbelief " and then hope that she makes the right decision. 

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OK Allison, I am

OK Allison, I am probably going to ruin your thread but this is my territory. I have been doing exactly this for nearly thirty years.

 

The first mistake that you make is right in your thread title. Nobody is trying to treat religion. The patient presents with a suicidal ideation and dealing with that is job number one. A couple of questions that demand answers:

 

Q1. Why does she feel the way that she does?

 

More than likely, there is a form of depression active here. Down the road, we probably want to deal with that but the first job is to make sure that she is in a safe environment.

 

In the US, we have a law (I don't know about Canada but the law has been taken up in most civilized countries) known as Tarasoff. Normally, that applies to a patient who expresses the desire to hurt someone else and requires a treating individual to notify a potential victim. In this case, it can be interpreted to mean that one must notify the family if the patient is still living with or in close contact with them. Get the guns locked up or out of the house if at all possible.

 

Q2. Why does she name god as the cause of her ideation?

 

In depression, all type of illogic are possible. One that comes up fairly often is to blame god for whatever the root issues in life are. The logic goes something like this: “If god loved me, he would not want me to deal with this life. So god must hate me and he wants me to end my pain”.

 

In this inquiry, it may come up that the patient feels some type of connection with god such that she “knows what god wants”. Sometimes, the patient will even tell the treating confidant that she “hears god talking to her”.

 

Sure, televangelists claim the same thing all the time but they are not trying to off themselves. If the patient claims to hear the voice of god, then a consultation with and a referral to a psychiatrist is likely in order.

 

A perceptual disorder presenting at the same time as a depression may (not “automatically is” ) be a sign of a deeper problem such as schizoafective disorder. If that is the case, then a hospitalization and/or medication are likely in order but those are tools that are reserved for physicians.

 

Past that, it would be irresponsible to speculate. First off, you have not presented a proper case file that would allow for further speculation. Second, every patient is different and the full case file is needed every single time to even attempt to determine what is going on.

 

Also, if memory serves, Ragdish is a neurologist so he may have some useful insights as well. Since I do not involve myself in the chat rooms or IM sessions around here, I would not know how to get his attention.

 

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Cpt_pineapple wrote:Say you

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
Say you are a psychologist and you are treating a 19 year old girl who says that God wants her to shoot herself.

If she is hearing voices she should do some rudimentary research on Auditory hallucination to help her understand and pinpoint the cause.

If this is how she feels emotional I would suggest an antidepressant.

 

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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Why should we intervene in

Why should we intervene in matters between people and their patron deities? If we're going to be ridiculous and refuse to disavow the possibility that such creatures exist, then why shouldn't we also entertain the possibility that the being in question actually did instruct the young lady to commit suicide.

I say that this is a perfect time to reserve judgment. If her suicide attempt is successful we can assume that either god doesn't exist, or doesn't care, or that she was right.

There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine
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 I dunno about Canuck land,

 I dunno about Canuck land, but in America, therapists are strongly discouraged from challenging religious notions as a first approach.  I've actually asked several therapists questions about how they treat people with very serious delusions that appear to be religiously caused.  The general approach is to begin with how the patient feels about his beliefs, and try to find one that stands out as particularly important.  

For someone who thought god wanted her to shoot herself, the first thing would be to find out how she felt about shooting herself.  If it became obvious that she was depressed and suicidal, a good therapist would try to root out the causes of the suicidal desires, not to challenge the word of god.  (Later, she would try to figure out a way to help the patient decide that god really didn't want her to kill herself... )  If she felt very scared and wanted badly to live, but felt like god was punishing her, or something like that, it would be all about finding an immediate loophole within the belief structure.  For instance, "See, you believe God says this about that and the other, so god won't mind if you and I talk this out thoroughly before you make your final decision."

To the best of my knowledge, very few cognitive therapists treat religious delusion as a unique kind of delusion.  They simply evaluate the depth and breadth of the delusion and then try to find ways to make immediate changes in behavior where necessary and to chip away at the corners until they find the loophole they need to make the patient question the delusion seriously.

The bottom line is that most people in therapy have an immediate problem.  Therapists tend to try to solve immediate problems expediently, and it's not usually expedient to try to destroy a patient's entire worldview.  Instead, they try to find cognitive dissonance that resonates emotionally with the patient and will cause them to rethink their actions with regard to the specific problem. 

 

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:o

Well, if she is christian she would probably be taking these issues to a pastor instead of a psychologist. And the pastor could say whatever he decided this god wanted her to believe, the same as usually happens. Then she would go away likely convinced of whatever she was told. Maybe she would be suicidal still, maybe not. 

 

Unless she is in a progressive area where psychology is accepted. Much of America doesn't think it is. For some reason they accept psychiatrists though...pills are okay but reasoning is not?

 

 

I don't really understand it. 

Theism is why we can't have nice things.


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Hambydammit wrote:For

Hambydammit wrote:

For someone who thought god wanted her to shoot herself, the first thing would be to find out how she felt about shooting herself.  If it became obvious that she was depressed and suicidal, a good therapist would try to root out the causes of the suicidal desires, not to challenge the word of god.  (Later, she would try to figure out a way to help the patient decide that god really didn't want her to kill herself... )  If she felt very scared and wanted badly to live, but felt like god was punishing her, or something like that, it would be all about finding an immediate loophole within the belief structure. 

 

 

Okay, but how would you determine which one it is?

 

 

 


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ClockCat wrote:Well, if she

ClockCat wrote:

Well, if she is christian she would probably be taking these issues to a pastor instead of a psychologist.

That's why this senario is not very likely. The more depressed and desperate someone is, the more likely they would turn to a pastor and less likely to a science(phsychology). So she's probably going to do whatever the pastor tells her to do. This is how religion often gets it's most faithful adherents.

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Hambydammit wrote: I dunno

Hambydammit wrote:

 I dunno about Canuck land, but in America, therapists are strongly discouraged from challenging religious notions as a first approach.

Definitely not a first approach, from the therapists or social workers I've discussed the topic with. I know of one case where the difficulty was precisely that medication caused "God" to "go away". The patient didn't want to be on medication, because she found that she didn't have that disembodied voice to talk to, and it made her feel lonely.

In answer to the OP, obviously AiG is right: you'd need a full case history to help determine if it was anything from suicidal ideation given a religious context to something like a psychotic episode. You haven't really presented enough information for an ethically responsible clinician.

I'm pretty sure the criminal code doesn't have a specific clause in the suicide section, but allowing someone to kill themselves after they've announced their intention might be construed as "death that might have been prevented". I think any "proper means" are acceptable, though, so the specifics are most likely not criminal, but ethical. I'm not a lawyer, though, so grain of salt.

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 Quote:Okay, but how would

 

Quote:
Okay, but how would you determine which one it is?

Whether it was suicidal urges or some bizarre religious indoctrination?  You'd ask lots of questions.  Psychologists have years of training in knowing how to ask questions that expose true beliefs.  

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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 Quote:I'm pretty sure the

 

Quote:
I'm pretty sure the criminal code doesn't have a specific clause in the suicide section, but allowing someone to kill themselves after they've announced their intention might be construed as "death that might have been prevented". I think any "proper means" are acceptable, though, so the specifics are most likely not criminal, but ethical. I'm not a lawyer, though, so grain of salt.

In America, if a patient expresses suicidal urges, health professionals are required to take action to prevent it.  For psychologists, priority #1 is preventing suicide.  After that danger has passed, they can delve into the deeper inner workings of a person's brain to see if they can fix a long term problem.   But in the scenario Pineapple gave, if the psychologist couldn't determine that the suicidal statement was a lie, or clinically solve the problem, she might be required (depending on the state, I believe) to force the patient to undergo psychiatric observation for a few days.  (That happened to a friend of mine a few years ago.  Spent 5 days in the loony bin after telling a nurse he wanted to commit suicide.)

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

 

Quote:
Okay, but how would you determine which one it is?

Whether it was suicidal urges or some bizarre religious indoctrination?  You'd ask lots of questions.  Psychologists have years of training in knowing how to ask questions that expose true beliefs.  

 

 

 

Okay, let's say that she does off herself and it appears in the papers, how would you determine which one?

 

 

 

 

 


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 You mean... you trust the

 You mean... you trust the media to determine truth?

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Cpt_pineapple wrote:Okay,

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

Okay, let's say that she does off herself and it appears in the papers, how would you determine which one?

Are you leading up to a Walden Two kind of behaviorist position? That is, behaviour is all we get to know for certain?

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HisWillness

HisWillness wrote:

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

Okay, let's say that she does off herself and it appears in the papers, how would you determine which one?

Are you leading up to a Walden Two kind of behaviorist position? That is, behaviour is all we get to know for certain?

 

Kinda, I created this thought experiment to determine whether or not it was actually "obvious" that religion causes people to kill others or themselves.

 

I already went through my line of reasoning with it before I posted, and wanted to post it to get others.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Cpt_pineapple wrote: Kinda,

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

 

Kinda, I created this thought experiment to determine whether or not it was actually "obvious" that religion causes people to kill others or themselves.

 

I already went through my line of reasoning with it before I posted, and wanted to post it to get others. 

 

Just in case the whole Waco siege thing was not incredibly obvious...

 

Allow me to clue you in:  Please google "ruby ridge" and "oklahoma city bombing".

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Cpt_pineapple wrote:Are you

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
HisWillness wrote:

Are you leading up to a Walden Two kind of behaviorist position? That is, behaviour is all we get to know for certain?

Kinda, I created this thought experiment to determine whether or not it was actually "obvious" that religion causes people to kill others or themselves.

I already went through my line of reasoning with it before I posted, and wanted to post it to get others.

You have a bit of a which-came-first problem, in that you don't know whether a religious culture effects an individual, or a collection of individuals with similar ideas create a religious culture (or both), so it would be extremely difficult to determine which one was the definitive cause of a specific individual's specific actions.

However, religion still sticks out as a fantastic excuse to do things that would otherwise be considered terrible. That's not to say nationalism doesn't provide an equivalent excuse, but that they are both forms of the same tribal them-and-us characterizing that preceeds destructive behaviour towards others.

So my suggestion is that religious thinking is part of how we separate ourselves culturally from other groups, and thus dehumanize each other. In the case of nationalism, the arbitrary boundaries exist in physical space, while with religious thought, there's a confusion between physical and conceptual space.

Maybe it's that confusion that creates a likeness to those experiencing a psychotic episode.

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