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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Just Caring: An Interdisciplinary Feminist Approach to Ethical Pastoral Care with Women With Mental Illness
by Thomas, Leah R., Ph.D., Drew University, 2017, 234; 10268119
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines psychiatric chaplaincy with women in the context of a state psychiatric hospital. It argues that pastoral and spiritual care within Western society, particularly in the psychiatric setting, has been influenced and defined by the prevalence of the Western medical model as manifested in practices of psychiatric diagnosis. Yet, psychiatric diagnosis within a psychiatric hospital brings with it certain named and unnamed underlying moral values that are inattentive to larger systemic factors such as culture, gender, race and socio-economic class. This dissertation proposes that the absence of this larger systemic analysis within pastoral caregiving has resulted in deleterious effects for women with mental illness.

In order to investigate the relationship between psychiatric diagnosis and pastoral ministry with women, this dissertation engages ideas from interviews with eighteen chaplains in three psychiatric facilities in a northeastern state in the U.S. Interviews revealed that psychiatric chaplains were united in their assertion that they aimed to see and honor the “whole person” in a system (and on a team) that tended to reduce women to their diagnosis. Yet this existed in tension with racial dynamics that were often invisible to many chaplains, as well as with deficiencies in training that resulted in uneven assessment practices.

This dissertation combined the voices of psychiatric chaplains with the disciplines of feminist and womanist Christian social ethics and feminist, liberationist, and intercultural pastoral care to create “Just Care,” a feminist approach to pastoral care that accounts for both institutional-personal and societal-systemic factors in its praxis of ministry within a psychiatric institution. Just Care, at its core, proposes that ethical pastoral care that addresses the entirety of the person necessitates a commitment to justice as foundational for ethical pastoral care, as well as attention to cultural dynamics. It argues that psychiatric pastoral care must begin with an awareness of the chaplain’s own social positionality and embedded theology, while honoring the communal and individual nature of care, as well as intersections of culture, gender, race and class. Just Care aims to impact the training, praxis, and method of pastoral caregivers as each pertains to women with mental illness. It addresses the ways in which the field of pastoral care conceptualizes ministry with and for those with mental illness, proposing concrete, ethical action for pastoral caregivers based on the components of Just Care.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: West, Traci C.
Commitee: Ott, Kate M., Pressley, Arthur L.
School: Drew University
Department: The Graduate Division of Religion
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 78/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Mental health, Ethics, Pastoral Counseling, Womens studies
Keywords: Chaplaincy, Christian social ethics, Mental illness, Pastoral care, Race, Women
Publication Number: 10268119
ISBN: 978-1-369-70719-9
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