Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology


This research evaluated the role of the rural pastor in making mental health referrals. A questionnaire was mailed to pastors in several rural California counties in order to assess the referral patterns of pastors to mental health professionals. The questionnaire consisted of demographic information and Likert-style questions inquiring about pastoral interaction, willingness to refer, and referral history with mental health professionals. It was expected that many variables including levels of education, counseling experience, exposure to mental health, specific denominations, and belief systems would affect the referral pattern to mental health professionals. It was also expected that all rural pastors would be more likely to refer to a religious versus a nonreligious mental health professional. Results of the findings were significant at .01-.05 levels. These rural pastors were significantly more willing to refer to a mental health professional with a similar belief system Correlational results showed that several variables seemed to increase the likelihood to refer to an atheist, agnostic, non-Christian, Christian, or similar-believing mental health professional. The results suggest that while the mental health professionals' belief system seems to be the most significant factor in a pastor's decision to refer, other variables may increase the pastor's willingness to consider a referral to those who have a dissimilar belief system and whom he or she does not know. Rural pastors appear to have some distrust of the mental health profession, but many of them are willing to refer if they do not feel capable in addressing the laymen's concerns. Therefore, for the rural mental health professional with a same or similar belief system as the pastor, building a relationship with the pastor would be an efficient means of initiating a referral source. The results indicate that the rural pastor is more likely to refer to a mental health professional with a dissimilar belief system if the pastor has had prior exposure to a mental health professional; mental health education; or experience in psychology, counseling, or mental health.

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