Why Mental health & Spirituality?

My focus on the intersection of mental health & spirituality began while attending seminary in Berkeley from 2006 to 2008. I had already worked for 20 years in the public mental health field at the local, state, and national levels. My plan for my life was that I was leaving behind the mental health field in order to become a healthcare chaplain. However, around this time, mental health advocate Jay Mahler was organizing a small group of people in Alameda County who were interested in spirituality. He had personally had his spiritual and religious experiences disrespected while he was a patient. Once Jay convened the group and shared his vision, it became unstoppable. The California Mental Health & Spirituality Initiative was formed, which I have been actively involved with ever since.

My passion for this work comes from the belief that people labelled by our society as “mentally ill” may be carriers of very valuable spiritual wisdom. It can be a source of healing for their own personal journey, and for others as well.

I have personally advocated for empowerment, respect, and elimination of stigma and discrimination toward people with mental health issues since 1986. Many important waves of change have been initiated by consumers and family members in that time, and transformed the system. I believe we are on the cusp of another major change, as we begin to respect and support the spiritual lives of ALL people, including people in the throes of a psychiatric crisis. If we can get the public mental health system to respect the spirituality of the individuals and families we serve, we will be respecting their very essence.

This is why I give my life energy to the area of mental health & spirituality.

Laura Mancuso

About Laura L. Mancuso

Rev. Laura L. Mancuso is an interfaith chaplain who has worked for 25 years in leadership roles in the public mental health system at the local, state, and national levels.

She earned a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling (specializing in Psychiatric Rehabilitation) from Boston University in 1989. Laura has been a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor since 1990, and a certified psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner since 1998. She was ordained as an interfaith minister in 2008 by the Interfaith Congregation for Creative and Healing Ministries in Berkeley, CA.

Laura served as the first Director of the California Mental Health & Spirituality Initiative. She was previously Director of Technical Assistance for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) in Alexandria, Virginia and Project Manager with the County Mental Health Department in Santa Barbara, California. She is currently employed part-time as a Spiritual Care Counselor with Hospice of Santa Barbara, where she supports individuals and families dealing with end-of-life issues or grieving the death of a loved one.

As an ordained interfaith minister, Laura strives to honor all faith traditions, as well as the spiritual paths and life philosophies of those who do not adhere to any religion. She resides on the Gaviota Coast, north of Santa Barbara, California.


Laura offers energy healing sessions in the greater Santa Barbara area. See her related webpage here: www.spiritofhealing.info.

Read some of Laura’s published articles:

SAMHSA Recovery to Practice Webinar on “Understanding and Building on Culture and Spirituality in Recovery-Oriented Practice”, co-presented with Larry Davidson, Dee Bigfoot, and Gladys Christian (PowerPoint file, audio recording and supplemental PDF)

NAMI STAR Center Technical Assistance Tool on Multicultural Competence, Intense Spiritual Experiences, and Mental Health (13 pages)

NAMI STAR Center Full Report on Multicultural Competence, Intense Spiritual Experiences, and Mental Health (43 pages)

Revealing The Spiritual Wisdom of People with Mental Illnesses, article by Laura Mancuso (8 pages)

Behavioral Healthcare Articles on Spirituality in Mental Health Services, by Lori Ashcraft, Bill Anthony, and Laura Mancuso (9 pages)