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The Meaning and Perceived Effects of a Spiritual Retreat For Adolescent Males with Personal/Interpersonal Problems. A Dissertation By Paul C. Seishas Benard School of Education Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology University of the Pacific Stockton, California 2008.

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The Meaning and Perceived Effects of a Spiritual RetreatFor Adolescent Males with Personal/Interpersonal Problems

A Dissertation

By

Paul C. Seishas

Benard School of Education

Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology

University of the Pacific

Stockton, California

2008

motivation for this study
Motivation for this Study
  • Unique contribution to the field
    • Only recently has the notion of spirituality entered the mainstream of thinking in psychotherapy
    • Often spirituality is thought of in terms of religious orientations of the client, therapist, pyshcotherapeutic setting
motivation for this study1
Motivation for this Study
  • Personal Passion
    • The healing of human suffering and the quest for meaning and the life well lived
    • To merge psychology, philosophy, and spirituality into a context for psychotherapy
  • Compassion – to suffer with (pati cum)
preparation for this study
Preparation for this Study
  • Summary of philosophical and theoretical foundations for this study
  • Relevant Literature Review
  • Development of Purpose Statement:
    • The purpose of this phenomenological study is to understand the lived experience of adolescent males who have experienced significant emotional or family problems and have attended a spiritual retreat and to glean from this event its meanings and impact on their lives and emotional growth. At this stage in the research, the meaning and experiences of these adolescents will be generally described as a therapeutic healing.
data collection for this study
Data Collection for this Study
  • Selection of respondents
    • “Letter of Inquiry and Response to Participate” was mailed to the graduates of the school site selected for this research, classes of 2001 – 2005, to solicit potential participants in the study.
    • After a review of the inquiry forms and brief phone interviews appropriate candidates were selected and scheduled.
    • All respondents read, understood, and signed the “Participant Release Agreement,” which includes full disclosure regarding the research, its purpose, and intent.
    • Data was collected through extensive, recorded then transcribed interviews using the protocol described earlier. Second interviews were not deemed necessary as data collected was extensive.
organization and analysis for this study
Memoirs provide a vertical understanding of each participant

Phenomenological Reduction

bracketing

identifying and separating interview data relevant to the purpose of the study

horozonalizing

giving equal weight to relevant data

clustering data into themes

organizing themes into meaningful descriptions

Imaginative Variation

i.e. examining the phenomena from different perspectives seeking various meanings of the experience

Synthesis

a descriptive narrative of the essences of the experience of the phenomenon as a whole

Organization and Analysis For this Study
findings
Findings
  • Two distinct phenomena
    • Lost in Suffering
      • State of life prior to the Kairos retreat
    • Found in Redemption
      • Results of a four day experience of bonding, healing, and transformation
lost in suffering
Lost in Suffering
  • Trepidation (fear)
    • Characterized by fear of the future, leaving home, change, or life
  • Turbulence (confusion and conflict)
    • Confusion, defiance, mistrust, dishonesty
    • Conflict characterized by argumentation, physical altercations, and tensions primarily with parents
  • Disengagement (inner focus and isolation)
    • Inner focus characterized by self-absorption, self-loathing, self consciousness, self-deprecation
    • Isolation and ostracization characterized by rejection, ridicule, harassment, racism, homophobia
    • Unfulfilled desire for intimacy and connection with others
  • Escape
    • Drugs and alcohol
    • Suicidal ideation and gestures
    • Self-medication
    • Athletics
    • Sex
    • Leaving home
  • Dark Corner (emptiness, trapped)
    • Emptiness of life, loss of meaning and purpose
    • Implosion of one’s world
    • Loss of control and life manageability
    • Feelings of being trapped, psychic suffering, grief, depression, etc.
found in redemption
Found in Redemption
  • Anticipation – Day One
    • Characterized by excitement, intrigue curiosity and hope at the possibilities the retreat may hold
    • Fear and apprehension that the retreat may not be what is needed
  • Awakening – Day Two
    • Dismantling of barriers between students and adults, retreatants and leaders, social groups, etc. characterized by genuineness
    • Characterized by an embracing environment in which the retreatant feels peace, calm, acceptance, comfort, relief, continued hope, and love
    • Realization of interconnectedness among all people and the world
    • Experience of order in a life of chaos
  • Threshold Experience – Day Three
    • Experience of unconditional love, acceptance and understanding
    • Ineffable catharsis, a breakthrough accompanied by floods of emotion in an emerging enlightenment
    • Profound realization that “I am not alone” and “I am loved”
  • Intimacy of Transcendence – Day Four
    • Realization that life is “not about me”
    • Taking the risk of vulnerability characterized by self-revelation
    • Revelation that one is deeply connected to others and to God by a common need for love and embrace, to ease the pain of suffering isolation
    • This Intimacy of Transcendence is received as gifts in the form of letters, student and adult leaders, God, and each other
  • Path to Restoration – Living the Fourth
    • Spiritual Genesis and Life Conversion: “I was lost and now I am found”
    • Renewed purpose and meaning of life as something to be given to others not something to be wallowed in self-absorption
    • Impetus for action characterized by desire and will to change, reconciliations, seeking help (ex. D/A programs), “coming out,” restored friendships, taking responsibility for life
what is the essence of the kairos experience for troubled adolescents spiritual genesis
What is the essence of the Kairos experience for troubled adolescents?Spiritual Genesis!
  • “For the ten troubled teenagers in this study the Kairos experience is a spiritual genesis.  It is the birthplace of a profound transcendence of self in the encounter of God and/or others within a wholly accepting and caring environment free of judgment and filled with unconditional love. It is the place where new life begins with a hope and promise for a future less burdened by conflict, depression, or isolation. It is an experience of risk and vulnerability that is rewarded with a level of intimacy never before experienced. In the end, it is a beginning.  Kairos becomes a proving ground for these teenagers in distress, a place where they first put into practice a new manner of communication, a new attitude of embrace for the commonalities and the differences among people. The real retreat, however, begins when they go home to face the conditions that caused so much hurt in their lives. Apparently they face it with great confidence and conviction.  They declare their sexual orientations, they ask forgiveness of parents whom they have injured, they reach out to peers in friendship, removing their own isolation as well as the isolation of others. “
what is the essence of the kairos experience for troubled adolescents spiritual genesis1
What is the essence of the Kairos experience for troubled adolescents?Spiritual Genesis!
  • In their suffering the participants:
    • are confronted with death, isolation, meaninglessness, and freedom, or the lack of freedom which might be called a slavery to emotional pain.
  • During the retreat the teenager finds himself challenged:
    • to reorient his thinking and feeling
    • his perceptions and perspectives
  • In facing each of these issues, in discovering a spiritual bond with others he finds a way out of his suffering.
  • He puts into action what he has learned
    • discovers that life changes for him
    • discovers that life becomes more than just bearable
    • finds that life can be filled with a joy and satisfaction that he would not have otherwise known
  • Overwhelming perception
    • their lives had changed for the better after Kairos
    • their lives would not be the same today had it not been for Kairos.
  • What is described here bears striking resemblance to the psychotherapeutic process as experienced in successful therapy.
implications
Implications
  • This research supports the contention that spiritual experience, both religious and non-religious:
    • can be therapeutic
    • can be a context for the therapeutic process
    • and psychotherapy can be viewed as a blend of two experiences that seek to make people whole
further research
Further Research
  • To discover the value of spirituality to psychotherapy and mental health research must delve deeper into fundamental human needs developmentally and cross-culturally and move beyond questions of client anticipation based on religious orientation or openness.
  • The following questions would require both qualitative and quantitative study…
further research1
Further Research
  • How does the psychotherapist’s ability to understand and respond to divergent spiritual and religious orientations impact successful therapy?
  • How does this promote the relief of symptoms and generate a healing process for the client?
further research2
Further Research
  • Research and development of therapist training
    • religious and spiritual dimensions of the therapeutic process
    • similar to the requirements of cross-cultural therapeutic training
  • What would such training be composed of? 
  • How would it fit into established curriculum?
further research3
Further Research
  • In the broader study of spirituality and psychotherapy much work is needed in determining the appropriate place of spirituality in psychotherapy.
    • ex. Would recommending the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the confessing of sins to a priest, be an appropriate and effective therapeutic intervention for a Catholic client who greatly struggles with guilt issues?
    • What would such an experience mean to that individual and what effects might it have?
    • Would such an intervention be a catalyst for change, reduce symptoms, etc.?