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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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6 Results and Discussion


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6  Results and Discussion

This thesis examined the perception of free church pastors in Germany regarding their understanding of spirit possession and mental illness. The aim was to explore the perceptions held, specifically as they apply in relation to their working with patients, who present symptoms that are diagnosable either as spirit possession or mental illness. In light of the similarity of symptoms between the two experiences, this understanding is essential as misdiagnosis may influence the treatment trajectory of the patient.

The thematic content analysis enabled the identification of four themes. These are 1) distinction between spirit possession and mental illness; 2) understanding and treatment of mental illness; 3) understanding and treatment of spirit possession and 4) framework. In the sections that follow, each theme will be discussed.

6.1  Theme 1: Distinction between mental illness and spirit possession

The field of psychology has placed much emphasis on the biological and psychological aspects of the causes and manifestations of psychological disturbances (Ally, 2009). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders adds that regardless of the original cause of mental illness, it must be considered a manifestation of a behavioural, psychological or biological dysfunction. According to Ally (2009), definitions like this permeate the field of psychopathology, and even though they address many of the aspects related to the manifestation of psychological disturbances, they are limited in some respects. One major limitation is the non-inclusion of the possible influence of...

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