Clergy-provided mental health services: A strategy for addressing disparities in scale-up efforts

Cole Hooley, Yi Wang, David R. Hodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most individuals with mental health needs do not receive professional care. One strategy to narrow this service provision gap is task-shifting, a process where certain responsibilities are shifted to less specialized workers. Approximately 25% of those who seek mental health care turn to clergy. This study investigated the suitability of using clergy to scale-up mental health service provision by assessing perceptions of satisfaction and helpfulness with clergy-delivered services. Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (2003), we found most respondents (n=204) who went to clergy reported satisfaction with their care (92%) and that the services were helpful (94%). Ordered logit regression revealed that racial/ethnic minorities and individuals for whom religion was more salient were disproportionately likely to find clergy-delivered mental health services satisfying and helpful, while older adults were more likely to report the services were helpful. The results suggest incorporating clergy in mental health scale-up plans via task-shifting may be a viable option, particularly for addressing the mental health needs of underserved racial and ethnic minorities, as well as older adults. Social workers— at least in theory—are well-positioned to collaborate with clergy in the process of implementing task-shifting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)778-800
Number of pages23
JournalAdvances in Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Health disparities
  • Mental health services
  • Scale-up
  • Task-shifting, clergy
  • Underserved populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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