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Better understanding psychosis: A psychospiritual challenge to medical psychiatry

Spittles, BrianORCID: 0000-0003-0308-752X (2018) Better understanding psychosis: A psychospiritual challenge to medical psychiatry. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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What is psychosis? From a medical psychiatry perspective, psychosis is generally viewed as a psychopathological and incomprehensible mental disorder of biological aetiology. My dissertation argues that this represents a limited view, and that a psychospiritual investigation of psychosis may enable a better understanding of its nature and determinants. My aim is not to negate the discipline of psychiatry, but to demonstrate the viability and efficacy of incorporating psychospiritual considerations into psychosis research. Subsequently, I challenge several core psychiatric beliefs, and call for the discipline to extend its investigative parameters beyond the limited epistemological bounds of materialism.

This undertaking has required the creation of a provisional bridge between materialist and metaphysical worldviews. Accordingly, I use an open-ended heuristic methodology that enables the systematic examination and critical appraisal of views on psychosis across the materialist-to-metaphysical spectrum. This is structured in four 'Focal Settings' that sequentially examine the construal of psychosis within different paradigms of psychospiritual understanding.

Focal Setting One provides a historical overview of evolving understandings of psychosis within the tradition of psychiatry, in which psychospiritual matters are generally not considered. Focal Setting Two aims to demonstrate that, while psychiatry has traditionally eschewed psychospiritual considerations, such investigation is possible. Focal Setting Three critically investigates the problem of discerning psychotic from non-psychopathological psychotic-like psychospiritual experiences. Finally, Focal Setting Four argues that, in the absence of deep metaphysical knowledge, it is ultimately impossible to discern culturally normative psychotic-like experiences from psychotic instances.

Overall, my dissertation aims to demonstrate the importance and validity of incorporating psychospiritual knowledge into conventional psychiatric thinking and practice, while challenging the view that psychosis is a biogenic and incomprehensible form of psychopathology characterised by specific diagnostic criteria. This challenge suggests the necessity for fundamental changes to psychiatric theory in order to foster a better understanding of psychosis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Ault, Nancy and Main, Alex
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