Referral and collaboration between South African psychiatrists and religious or spiritual advisers: Views from some psychiatrists

Albert Bernard-Repsold Janse van Rensburg, Marie Poggenpoel, Christopher Paul Szabo, Chris P H Myburgh


Background. Referral between psychiatrists and spiritual workers (e.g. Christian pastoral care workers, traditional healers, imams, rabbis and others) in the heterogeneous South African (SA) society is complicated and requires investigation to establish appropriate norms. 

Objective. To capture the views of some local psychiatrists on referral and collaboration between SA psychiatrists and religious or spiritual advisers. 

Methods. This explorative qualitative study involved indepth, semistructured interviews with 13 local academic psychiatrists selected through purposive sampling. Each participant had a single interview with the aim of exploring themes related to the referral and collabora­tion process between psychiatrists and spiritual advisers. Theme content analysis of interview transcripts was done. Results for one of the six identified themes are reported; other results are reported elsewhere. 

Results. Within the theme ‘referral and collaboration between psychiatrists and spiritual professionals’, three subthemes were identified: facilitating appropriate referral and intervention for individual users; information sharing and mutual awareness between disciplines; and addressing stigmatisation of users with psychiatric conditions.

Conclusion. Dialogue between psychiatrists and religious or spiritual advisers should be developed on an individual practitioner and facility basis, as well as on an organised basis between representative societies. The process of formalising a relationship between local psychiatrists and different spiritual workers may, however, still have some way to go.


referral; collaboration; psychiatrists; religious spiritual advisers

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Submitted: 24 November 2013
Published: 30 July 2014

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)