I will admit that getting through chapter four was a bit of a slog for me. The detailed description of how and why the research was done was a challenge to get through. I did appreciate Swinton’s attention to the purpose of coming at the research from a whole person perspective and the difficulty that empirical research has with this. I do tend to agree with him that when it comes to Mental health research for growth and understanding and improvement of care, it has to include more whole person orientation which is not always achievable through more hard data oriented research. His approach of a more sociological type of research seemed to get very well to the type of data he was trying to gather.
I appreciated that he focused in on one type of mental health issue, depression. This is so prevalent in society that it make sense to start here. It was helpful to for this research novice to have only one focus. The aha for me was his discovery that depression is a spiritual experience. I don’t know that I have really connected the dots so clearly like this. So for me as a chaplain working with someone dealing with depression it seems to me that it is imperative that I gain a good assessment of what the base line spiritual framework is for the person. It is only then that I can then get to helping them open up to me how that frame work feels disconnected in the current place they are in. It is only then that the other work of reconnecting hope and meaning can begin. At least that is how I am hearing Swinton. It goes back to being able to get to the person’s perceived truth and work from there.
His break down of various collective themes of the experience of depression was very helpful. It for me creates a framework for me to start listening from. Again it goes back to what I am coming to understand as my roll as a hospital chaplain with limited time and short term interactions – to enter into the space with the person from a place of seeking to understand their truth and listen deeply for the places of connection to greater hope and meaning that may be there. Not to fix but to open back up to a place of connectivity.
All of the participants were Christian so the themes are distinctly Christian. This leads me to wonder how we apply this research to other spiritual frameworks. Is the experience still essentially similar for one who is pagan or Hindu? Swinton only briefly addresses this and in a society where spiritual frameworks and perspectives are much more diverse and often less connected to Christianity than once was I think this is an important question.
Enough for now.