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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

About us: Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group

Spirituality and psychiatry SIG about us


There is now good evidence that spirituality and religious faith can be protective factors in helping to sustain patients and improve the outcome. Taking a short spiritual history can assist psychiatrist and patient alike when considering treatment options, as well as strengthening the therapeutic relationship.

The CPD module Exploring spirituality with people who use mental health services is now available to all members of the College. The SPSIG has held meditation workshops at College meetings, and programmes on Mindfulness, with a CPD module under development. In addition, the SPSIG has contributed to the 2016 World Psychiatric Association Position Statement on Spirituality and Religion in Psychiatry.

Spirituality SIG Chair Blog:CHAIR Photo


Welcome to the new look spirit SIG blog. The blog goes someway to replace the newsletters, and we again give our thanks to Andrew Powell for all his hard work collating these over the years.


I am very glad to announce that Gloria Durá-Vilá has agreed to join the exec. She is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist  and author of 'Sadness, Depression, and the Dark Night of the Soul' which raises questions about the over-medicalisation of severe sadness, which we will be tackling in the Spring 2019 conference.


 Here is Gloria’s personal introduction:

GloriaI am a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Lead in Autism, Surrey and Borders NHS Trust, and Honorary Lecturer at the Mental Health Neuroscience Department, University College London.

I studied medicine in Valencia, Spain, and trained in psychiatry at the Royal Free, St Mary’s, and UCL. My research interests are truly interdisciplinary, focusing on religion, culture and mental health from the standpoints of medical anthropology and cultural psychiatry.

I have authored the best-selling book “My Autism Book: A Child's Guide to their Autism Spectrum Disorder” (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2013) and the

recent “Sadness, Depression and the Dark Night of the Soul: Transcending the Medicalisation of Sadness” (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017). My latest book on Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome, a profile within the Autism Spectrum Disorder, is coming out in November 2018.

The Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group has been a reference point in my learning, both academic and clinical, since the beginning of my career. My latest research project (see “Sadness, Depression and the Dark Night of the Soul”) compelled me to seek membership of the executive committee. My study clearly showed that religion played a crucial role in the way sadness was understood and resolved: symptoms that otherwise might have been described as evidence of a depressive episode were often understood in those more religiously committed - within the framework of the “Dark Night of the Soul” narrative, an active transformation of emotional distress into a process of self-reflection, attribution of religious meaning and spiritual growth.

I would like to contribute to the special interest group through my academic work and also as a clinician to help psychiatrists to find ways to incorporate existential aspects into clinical practice to offer a more person-centered service



We also welcome Omur Miles, another Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, who has joined the exec particularly to help with the website and modern media. Omur Writes:


I have worked in the NHS for 15 years and have been in a Consultant Role for 5 years. Like all my colleagues working in mental health services offered to under 18s, I have concerns about increasing levels of youth unhappiness, self-harm, eating disorders, mental health emergencies and crisis presentations at a time of diminishing resources or promised resources not reaching the front line. While observing and understanding the increasing emphasis on checklists, presentations, risk assessments and outcome measures, I have also developed worries that we, as a wider system, are losing sight of the bigger picture and being distanced from seeing  young people as whole individuals to be appreciated with all their assets, strengths and weaknesses and individual identities. 


I have for a while feared the bigger system's loss of grip on this holistic outlook on young people and worried that one of the core vehicles of how people relate to life, the world and the bigger society, that is spirituality, is being overlooked.  Spirituality has long been a subject I had an interest in.  I have been a member of the wider Royal College Spirituality Interest Group for a long time. I am grateful to be appointed to the committee as one of the Communication Secretaries and look forward to contributing in anyway I can.




The exec recently had an animated discussion about human rights and the Mental Health Act.  Some of the exec members would support a move away from forced admission of anyone who has capacity to consent to treatment; others feel that it is often in the best interests of the individual to receive treatment against their will, irrespective of capacity. As so often in the Spirituality SIG there is a legitimate breadth of opinion, which does not divide neatly on faith community lines.


Our exciting, Autumn day conference “Music, Spirituality and Mental Health Care” is a departure for us, with talks from musicians and composers, and featuring live music; it will be very interactive.  This will be on 9th November 2018 at the college.


Our Spring 2019 day conference is on 5th April 2019. We are inviting key international speakers to present on the Medicalization of Unhappiness. Watch this space for further details.


We have 29th November 2019 penciled in for the Spirit SIG 20th Anniversary celebrations, looking back and looking forward. Save the date!


We welcome feedback, new subject ideas and seek to encourage the development of spirituality in mental health conferences all over the country. If you would like to invite a member of the exec to speak to your conference please complete and return this form to me via the college and we will do all we can to support you.



I look forward to hearing from you, and seeing you at the next conference.


Alison J Gray


Chair Spirituality in Psychiatry SIG


Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group (SPSIG) | Executive Committee | Forthcoming events | Newsletters | Resources | Spirituality and Psychiatry prize | Publications archive | How to join | Spirituality SIG Annual Report 2017 


The SPSIG supports the exploration of such fundamental questions as the purpose and meaning of life, which are so important for mental health; the problem of good and evil; life events invested with spiritual significance, including birth, illness, bereavement, death and the near death experience; mystical and trance states, and spiritual and religious awakening. Distinguishing between pathological and normal human experience is vital in order to understand better the overlap and the difference between the two.

The membership of the SPSIG has steadily increased over the years and currently stands at over 3000. Twice yearly conferences are held, and the website has over 200 papers on spirituality by psychiatrists that can be downloaded from its publications archive.


The Executive Committee is keen to involve the wider membership in shaping  the further work of the SPSIG. Trainees, in particular, have an important part to play in future developments. The committee would be glad to give support to psychiatrists and trainees interested in running local events or in wider networking. The aim of the SPSIG is always to affirm the universal nature of spirituality while encouraging diversity that informs and enriches. As valued colleagues, please make your views heard and your presence felt.


Please note that publications by the SPSIG represent the views of individual members or its Executive and do not represent College policy unless specified.


A video about the work of the Special Interest Group Spirituality in Psychiatry for Today’s World is available on YouTube.


Forthcoming events






How to join

Membership of the SPSIG is open only to Members and Associates of the College. To join, please complete our online application form or email the College Membership office.



Recent conferences include: 

  • 'Mindfulness:Theory and Practice' (March 2015)
  • 'Whither the Soul of Psychiatry? The place of Spirituality in UK mental healthcare today' (November 2015)
  • 'Interfaith and Interface: the Contribution of Faith Groups to Mental Health' (March 2016)
  • 'Hallucinations and Spiritual Experience: Voices, Visions and Revelation' (November 2016)
  • 'Silent Prejudice: Stigma, spirituality and mental health' (April 2017)
  • 'Bringing Compassion into Mental Healthcare' (December 2017)


College publications:

Two books on spirituality in mental healthcare have been published to date: Spirituality and Psychiatry and Spirituality and Narrative in Psychiatric Practice

The ‘Help is at Hand’ series includes a leaflet on Spirituality and Mental Health

In 2011, the College published the Position Paper Recommendations for Psychiatrists on Spirituality and Religion 


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College Position Paper:

CPD Online module: 

Journal of Mental Health, Religion and Culture:

College 'Help is at Hand' leaflet:

From the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust:

Please note: single download of the Handbook is permitted for personal use only. For multiple copies, email requesting an order form: £5 per copy including UK postage, discounts available for 10+


From the Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry Section of the World Psychiatry Association: