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Mental Disorder & Faith

Project Full Title:

Mental Disorder & Faith

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Project Mentor(s) EMail:

Project Start Date:


Project End Date:


Project Description:

This interdisciplinary project will incorporate the disciplines of Psychology, Religion, and Communication. However, the project is specifically housed within the Hope College Department of Philosophy.

Interested students are encouraged to email Dr. Finley directly (briefly state your interest, reasons for your interest, and any relevant background).

In this study, we will continue investigating and analyzing positive and negative aspects of the relationship between religious faith (including relevant experiences, beliefs, and practices) and experiences of mental disorder. We will build on previous research in which we specifically addressed the following through short-answer questionnaires and interviews. 1) Which symptoms of mental disorders (anxiety, hopelessness, delusion, etc.) often interact positively and/or negatively with faith (e.g. ‘my sense of hopelessness drew me towards God’, ‘my delusions caused me to doubt God’s goodness’). 2) Which components of faith (experiences, beliefs, relationship with community, etc.) are often involved in positive or negative interactions with mental disorder (e.g. ‘my depression caused me to pray more’, ‘my mental disorder kept me from going to church’). 3) Which resources (Christian community, Christian views on mental health, professional treatment, etc.) often help mediate these positive or negative interactions (e.g. ‘my medication helped with my symptoms as well as my ability to connect with God’, ‘attitudes about mental disorder in my church community undermined my faith and exacerbated my mental disorder’). This summer we continue analyzing this past research and design and conduct a new qualitative study based on it.

The student(s) working on this project will be involved in the following. Pre-experiment: critically reading relevant literature, experimental design. Experiment: contacting participants, interviewing participants, other logistical work. Post-experiment: coding and analysis of data, drafting a paper based on results, potential presentation of research, engaging with local faith and mental disorder-focused organizations (NAMI, local churches, etc.) to develop practical resources based on this research. The balance of working on these different elements is somewhat flexible based on student interest and background. As this research will involve working with human subjects, student(s) will receive training in proper human subject research and follow all IRB regulations. Depending on the pandemic situation this summer, this research may be conducted entirely remotely.

1 or 2 students (TBD) will work on the project for 8 weeks each – start and end dates are TBD and 8-week involvement is somewhat flexible. Students may also work on this project in the semester preceding (Spring 2021) and semesters following (Fall 2021, Spring 2022) if they are interested. My highest priority is finding a student (or students) that is interested in this research, hardworking, a self-starter, and interested in collaborating. That is more important than finding a student who already has previous experience in the above disciplines and techniques - although that is helpful (I have worked with students in Communications, Engineering, Psychology, and Philosophy on this project). Contact Dr. Finley with any questions!

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