A Brigham Young University psychology professor says a new survey shows most mental health professionals nationwide agree traditional values, such as marital fidelity, commitment, family relationships and self-control build a positive, mentally healthy lifestyle.
BYU's Allen E. Bergin and clinical psychologist Jay P. Jensen co-auth-ored a national study, published by the American Psychological Association's June issue of "Professional Psychology: Research and Practice." The survey found that 91 percent of 425 mental health professionals surveyed endorse the concept of being true to one's spouse.The two researchers were surprised at the high level of agreement among the respondents, and at their conservative slant.
"If you read the popular psychology literature, the trade books and popular books on marriage and sex, or listen to programs about this subject, you get the idea that psychologists and psychiatrists think that sexual experimentation is a good thing," said Bergin. "What we get from this national survey is just the opposite. The consensus of people who work day in and day out with people don't see that (exual experimentation) as helpful."
To the contrary, said Bergin, psychotherapists who work in the trenches do not see much glamour in adultery. Rather, they see tragic consequences for couples and children.
The survey consisted of a scientifically drawn sample of psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists.
A mentally healthy person was described as being a free agent; having a sense of identity and feelings of worth; being skilled in interpersonal communication, sensitivity and nurturance; being genuine and honest; and having self-control and personal responsibility.
Other agreed-upon values included being committed in marriage, family and other relationships; having a sense of purpose for living; having deepened self-awareness and motivation for growth; and having adaptive coping strategies for managing stresses and crises. Being able to forgive one's self and others, in addition to finding fulfillment in work and practicing good habits of physical health, rounded out the list.
Generally, said Bergin, there was a surprising amount of agreement on these elements of a mentally healthy lifestyle.
A sampling of responses shows 100 percent believe people should learn to assume responsibility for their actions, while 97 percent believe being able to give and receive affection is a healthy goal.
Ninety-five percent think self discipline in the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs is also important.
Two of the more prominent themes were "competent perception and expression of feelings," and "freedom, autonomy and responsibility."
Not all queries prompted such a high level of agreement.
While 50 percent of the professionals considered themselves committed to a religion in the traditional sense, only 44 percent thought that "actively participating in a religious affiliation" was important.
Sixty-eight percent, however, endorsed the importance of "seeking a spiritual understanding of one's place in the universe," and another 97 percent supported "having a sense of purpose for living" as a worthy goal.
Of all the value themes listed in the survey, sex and religion (abeled as "traditional morality") were the two finding the most disagreement, he said.
Those respondents who considered themselves pro-religion had the highest rate of agreement on all value themes except self-awareness and growth, while the non-religious, or atheist/agnostic respondents, rated lower (ad less agreement) in all areas.