Book review: Local author explores medication vs. spiritual practice

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"Psychiatric Medication and Spirituality — An Unforeseen Relationship" by Great Barrington clinician and author, Lynne Vanderpot, explores the contemporary phenomenon of mental health in this era of simultaneously effective new medications and a "time of spiritual revolution."

The book introduces the stories of several real people in a serious and comprehensive look at how medication may enhance or detract from spiritual practice and how spiritual practices may augment treatment when pharmaceuticals are prescribed.

The "key findings" in this groundbreaking book are that patients did have clear reactions as to how spiritual practices shaped the course of treatment and the prescribed medications they were taking. The stories portrayed really made it clear how individual experiences can frame this journey of medicine and spiritual practice. People tended to fall into two broad categories: those who found psychiatric medications "helpful and enhancing" for spiritual practices and those who found it "hindering or harmful to spirituality."

The book is framed by five major sub-themes: how medications 1) Increased feelings of connectedness to self, others, and the transcendent; 2) Increased feelings of perseverance; 3) Inspired hope; 4) Increased ability to participate in spiritual practices and activities; and 5) Enhanced life's meaning and purpose.

"Psychiatric Medication and Spirituality" is such a thorough and conscientious look at the question of medications and spirituality it is a wonder that such a study has not been done before in this way. But it hasn't. This new book is breakthrough stuff and it is a wonderful reference point for anyone who may want to know about this area of study. Spirituality and pharmaceutical prescriptions are indeed a balancing act.

As a reference point, this book is most helpful because, although Vanderpot cites many compelling studies, this book is most direct in its evidence with the narratives of real people reporting out on well-described personal experience. The book addresses people with humanity and detailed investigation in caring for what they say. Everyone's answers are unique, as is of course, an individual's treatment outcomes. The book emphasizes how the strength of the "patient therapist alliance" is key to finding the path of greatest success. Spiritual practices sometimes even have valuable room for the experience of struggle in treatment, which must be allowed for in breakthrough moments. These kind of questions are sometimes at the root of prescribed medication, which may inhibit feelings a patient may find important. Conversely, some patients experienced a liberation to fully experience spiritual practices and connections because of prescribed medications.

Human beings are body, mind and spirit, and it is a most successful therapy experience when the patient can precisely describe how medications help or hinder the sometimes greater relationships with the world. This book is a qualitative study in a framework that balances several individuals' experiences with the phenomenon of psychiatric issues and how we treat them. Interestingly, with the rise in prescription medication there is also a rising participation in many spiritual practices in our country. This book has a refreshingly honest and revealing view of what that's all about.

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at charrington686@gmail.com



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"Psychiatric Medication and Spirituality — An Unforeseen Relationship"

By Lynne Vanderpot, PhD

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

212 Pages


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