(Discount available for November 4-11 Brazil Trip–see below)
There is currently an epidemic of mental health disorders in the U.S. One in five Americans is estimated to be taking one or more prescribed psychiatric medications, despite their many side effects. However, optimizing wellbeing without psych meds is possible, something many Brazilians have been doing for more than 100 years—using spiritual therapies.
My Time in Brazil
From 2001-2012 I spent 6 months of every year in Brazil exploring Brazilian Spiritism, an offshoot of Spiritualism that specializes in healing. During that time I served as a guide bringing groups to John of God’s spiritual healing hospital in Abadiania, Brazil.
While John of God — whom the indigenous people of Brazil consider a gifted shaman — is a healing phenomenon unto himself, more conventional Spiritists operate over 12,000 community centers and fifty psychiatric hospitals in Brazil. These hospitals combine conventional psychiatry, including the cautious use of psych meds, psychotherapy, art therapy, etc., with various paths of spiritual healing, such as energy work to clear subtle bodies, compassionate fellowship with peer counselors, spiritual healing, blessed water, the assistance of medical intuitives and mediums for diagnostics and treatment.
A person who enters the hospital for care first meets with an MD for a physical check up, then a social worker to consider psychological stress (loss of a job, death in the family, marital problems, addiction, etc)—just like our regular hospitals. An authorization to receive Spiritist treatment must be signed in order to receive it. After being admitted, the person is ushered into a ward in the secure compound that is specific to their problem, e.g. addiction, schizophrenia, etc.
Goiania’s Spiritist Psychiatric Hospital grounds used to be a farm. Patients enjoy 100 year old mango and other trees with fruit free for the picking, a large permaculture garden where patients can work if they wish, a pond with ducks to feed—even some friendly dogs and a large pet turtle roam freely! Cows graze in a nearby field and amble, mooing, into the compound barns to be milked twice a day. The rhythms of nature are ever present, the food is wholesome, companionship and support of other patients and peer support workers are close-by, nurses are there as needed. This is not like our typical hospital settings in the USA. I could imagine wanting to stay at this hospital on vacation!
A typical residential stay is 28 days; but some patients stay longer—depending on the care needed. Private patients, not subsidized by the government, may elect to stay much longer than 28 days. Most Spiritist hospitals also provide out-patient services for those who don’t need residential care.
Over the years, many generous Brazilians who work in these hospitals have taught me about the spiritual side of maintaining wellness and healing from emotional disturbances.
A Closer Look at the Impact of Spiritual Growth on Mental Health
You don’t have to be religious to find healing, but you do need to align with what brings meaning and purpose to you individually. Many people find that meditation and prayer assist in finding meaning and purpose, which are universal practices found in nearly every culture to induce peace and reduce anxiety and depression. An ongoing community that is personally meaningful might involve making music or art together with others, being in nature, joining a church or a myriad of other interests that bring people into close, authentic connection, which also contribute to feelings of wellbeing.
Brazilian Spiritism offers a way of life that supports spirituality and mental health, Energy healing, blessed water to enhance healing, study groups, mediumistic meetings, lectures, compassionate fellowship, and training as an energy healer, medical intuitive or medium are services that are also available at community centers. Some centers offer pre-natal care, consultation with MDs and homeopaths, herbal and vitamin/mineral supplements, a soup kitchen and food boxes and clothing for those who are financially challenged. There are many opportunities for volunteer work to benefit others.in the context of a healthy, balanced lifestyle based on the golden rule. Spiritist mediums, medical intuitives, and healers offer their services for free through community centers and psychiatric hospitals to individuals of any age, culture and philosophy. (The hospitals charge for hospital services such as nursing, professional assessments, and residential care. Patients on government support pay nothing; private patients pay at a more normal rate for Brazil which is well below USA prices.) Mediums and medical intuitives are sensitive people gifted with heightened psychic abilities, who have been trained over many years at Spiritist centers to perceive the root cause of mental disturbances in those who are suffering. They generally work in groups to perform spiritual healing supervised by their more experiences teachers. Spiritists have a system of mentoring the gifts of sensitives so they can harness their abilities to lead balanced lives and assist others.
Can you imagine what it might be like to receive this kind of care? I was profoundly touched by the compassion and sensitivity in the community centers and hospitals for those suffering with mental illness. My local hospital in VT uses Reiki in palliative care; why not bring it into mental health care as well? Medical intuitives would be very beneficial to help with diagnosis and treatment.
In Brazil, Spiritist community care has been available for more than 120 years. It has both stood the test of time and continues to grow in popularity. They call their approach “integrative” because it brings spirituality into mental healthcare, while recognizing the effective role bio-chemistry can play when monitored carefully. In the U.S., the Spiritual Emergence Network and Spiritual Competency Resource Center recognize a category of experience called “spiritual emergency,” which assists individuals experiencing a psycho-spiritual crisis, similar to the Brazilian focus.
An evolution in mental healthcare is taking place where we have become aware of the dangers in leaning too heavily on psychiatric medications. Spiritist centers and hospitals in Brazil offer one model that can facilitate our re-evaluation and exploration of options.
Author: Emma Bragdon has a PhD in Transpersonal Psychology, is an author, and the founder and executive director of Integrative Mental Health for You (IMHU.org), a not for profit organization delivering online classes to the public to optimize mental health. Dr. Bragdon takes groups of healthcare providers to an annual weeklong tour in Brazil to learn more about Spiritist healing from the psychiatrists, spiritual healers and psychologists who collaborate in the hospitals. Visit EmmaBragdon.com/brazil-trips to learn more. See trailers of a 30 minute documentary on Spiritism co-produced by Dr. Bragdon by clicking here.
Discount information: If you want to register for the November 4-11, 2017 trip to learn more about the Spiritist paradigm of care you may receive a $100 discount by using the discount coupon “BRAZILBLOG” on registration. Be sure to include it in your registration application! Also let us know if you want Continuing Ed credits or CME.
This article is an abbreviated version of a longer article that was published in “Spirit of Change” in Fall, 2016. Energy Magazine published an article on this topic in May/June 2017 which emphasizes how a version of healing touch is being used in Spiritist Psychiatric Hospitals.