I read this book with fascination and interest, and it confirmed my feeling that storytelling is central to psychiatric practice, alongside a deep respect for the patient's own spiritual journey. Two contemporary themes have been employed by the editors to enable psychiatrists better to understand – and therefore be more effective in the treatment of – their patients. First, the spiritual and religious concerns of patients, after years of neglect by psychiatry, have now been accepted as an integral part of psychiatric assessment and care. Second, there has been much recent interest from many quarters, including psychiatry, in the nature and application of narrative – what it is, how it affects the relationship with, and between, our patients, and how it makes for better treatment. These dual themes are maintained throughout this book, which is written for mental health professionals, hospital chaplains and others interested in the relationship of mental health to spirituality. The practical rather than theoretical is underscored, emphasising how users, carers and relatives can all enlist spirituality and narrative for their well-being.
The fourteen chapters range widely over different areas of psychiatric practice and theoretical viewpoint. Most are written by psychiatrists whose primary role has been the care of patients. Transcultural psychiatry is shown to be intimately involved with both narrative and the person's spiritual and religious convictions. Descriptive psychopathology depends entirely on the patient's story, which often includes their spiritual and religious understanding. Psychotherapy is greatly enriched by taking into account the spiritual aspects of life; story is pre-eminent, with narrative an essential aspect of therapy. Other chapters discuss the core psychiatric problems of depression, anxiety, psychosis, psychiatry of old age and mentally ill offenders, in all of which the interweaving themes of narrative and spirituality are prominent. There are moving stories from both a service user and from people seeking help from a mental health chaplain that show the significance of their beliefs in aiding the recovery process.