Religion and Help-Seeking: Theological Conservatism and Preferences for Mental Health Assistance




Moreno, Ashley N.
Bartkowski, John P.
Xu, Xiaohe

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Religious affiliation and attendance have been shown to affect various facets of mental health, including the willingness to seek mental health assistance; however, little is known about how theological beliefs influence people's assessments of religious and secular mental health assistance options. Prior research using theological conservatism (beliefs about scripture, sin, and salvation) has conceptualized this perspective as being a schema in which the dimensions operate in tandem. Nonetheless, given the personalized nature of mental health, this study has conceptualized this perspective as three interrelated, but distinctly different dimensions of a religious belief system. Using data from the NORC General Social Survey's (GSS) 2006 and 2018 waves (N = 2563), this study enlists a fruitful but underutilized approach to gauging perceptions of mental health assistance through the use of situational vignettes that prompt survey respondent appraisals of different sets of circumstances and various possible solutions. This study finds some support for the hypothesis that predicted theological conservatism would be associated with a more favorable view of religious support for mental health as opposed to secular sources of assistance; there was also considerable support for the hypothesis that the salvation dimension of this worldview would exhibit an influence apart from the scripture and sin dimensions. This investigation sheds light on an understudied facet of religion in relation to receptivity toward distinctive forms of mental health treatment and highlights potential directions for future research.



religion, theological conservatism, scripture, Bible, sin, salvation, mental health, therapy, counseling, clergy


Religions 13 (5): 415 (2022)