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Free Church Pastors in Germany – Perceptions of Spirit Possession and Mental Illness

Michael Grossklaus

This book focuses on Free Church pastors in Germany and their perceptions of spirit possession and mental illness. To explore Free Church pastors’ understanding of spirit possession and mental illness is critical in light of the overlap of symptoms. Misdiagnosis may result in a client receiving treatment that may not be appropriate. Interviews with Free Church pastors were conducted. The results were analysed and four themes were identified. Based on these interviews conclusions could be drawn which ultimately made it clear that the German free church pastors’ theological training needs to be supplemented in the area of psychology and that the pastors are unable to cope in the area of «spirit possession or mental illness».

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5 Methodology


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5  Methodology

This study focused on exploring the perceptions of free church pastors’ perceptions of spirit possession and mental illness. The number of German individuals who frequent pastors with symptoms that could be described within the psychological framework as a mental illness is growing. While these symptoms may be diagnosed within the framework of psychology as a mental illness, the reality is that these patients believe that their experiences are linked more so towards spirit possession and pastors approached may be placed in a position where the nature of their training may guide the treatment plan pursued. As such, it is necessary to understand how free church pastors in Germany perceive spirit possession and mental illnesses. In lieu of this, the chapter outlines the methodology chosen for the current study, which is the qualitative paradigm. The decision for the qualitative interviews will be discussed alongside the research questions and the structure of the interviews with the free church pastors. In addition, the sample will be described and the analytical tool utilised discussed.

5.1  Research objective

This research project aimed to explore the perceptions of mental illness and spirit possession amongst free church pastors in Germany. Free church pastors often find themselves working with individuals who present symptoms that are believed to be spirit possession. However, upon investigation, the symptoms of spirit possession are remarkably similar to those which characterise mental illnesses, for example schizophrenia, where the patient hears voices and...

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