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Research

 

Sweat ceremony: Religious coping styles, psychological wellbeing and spirituality

Fiona Mawson, a Ceremonial Leader and Sweatlodge Facilitator of SOTEMS, has completed her research into the psychology, spiritual and emotional impacts of sweating cermonies for her Master of Psychology (Counselling) at Monash University in November 2011. 

SOTEMS is proud to present her work here.

The research for this thesis received the approval of the Monash University Standing Committee for Ethical Research on Humans on 4th November 2010 (Group approval reference: CF10/2697 - 2010001516)

Click here for a copy of the research Sweat ceremony: Religious coping styles, psychological wellbeing and spirituality.

 

Abstract / Summary

There is evidence that sweat practice has psychological, physical, social and spiritual benefit. The literature review outlines sweat practice from a historical and contemporary view and explains current research findings, including its applicability to psychotherapy.

A mixed design research method investigated difference in religious coping, psychological wellbeing and spirituality between sweat and non-sweat participants.

Sixty-nine sweaters and 25 non-sweaters completed measures of religious coping, psychological wellbeing and spirituality and six interviews explored the phenomenological experience of sweat ceremony. Sweat participants reported more Personal Growth (continuing development, sees self as growing and expanding) than non-sweat participants.

Sweat participants reported more Spiritual Connection (experiencing a sense of connectedness with forces that transcend), Religious Direction/Conversion (looking to religion for finding a new direction for living or a radical change in life) and Punishing God Reappraisal (redefining the stressor as a punishment from God for the individual‘s sins) and less Spiritual Discontent (expressing confusion and dissatisfaction with God‘s relationship to the individual in the stressful situation) than non-sweaters.

Sweat participants reported more External/Ritual Spirituality (spiritual activities/rituals), Internal Fluid Spirituality (evolving beliefs) and Existential/Meditative Spirituality (awareness of the interconnectedness in daily life) than non-sweaters. Within the sweat group, psychological wellbeing measures (personal growth, self acceptance, positive relationships with others and autonomy) related to participation in sweat ritual and the expression and exploration of a spiritual dimension.

Ten themes emerged: altered state of consciousness, connection, focus, cleansing, coping, healing, self development, ordeal, transformation and emotional affect. Adverse outcomes (physical, competition and bravado, poor focusing) and missing elements to sweat ceremony (lack of cultural expression and altered state of consciousness) are discussed along with limitations and implications for future research.

Sweat ceremony can be understood within a transpersonal therapeutic framework and bio-psycho-social-spiritual model of health.

Table of Contents

Introduction

1

            Religious Coping, Psychological Wellbeing and Spirituality

2

            Ritual and Coping

4

            Sweat Practice

5

            Historical and Cultural Variations of Sweat Practices

5

            Contemporary Issues for Sweat Practice

7

                        Cultural misappropriation

7

                        Cautions and health warnings

8

            Sweat Ceremony in Australia: The Australian Dreaming Wheel

9

            Theoretical Framework of Sweat Ceremony

12

            Psychological Frameworks and Sweat Practice

14

            Previous Research and Applicability to Psychotherapy

15

            Previous Research

16

                        Group and adventure based approaches

16 iv

                        Psychological wellbeing

19

                        Jail based treatments

21

                        Experiential accounts

23

                        Altered states of consciousness (ASC)

23

            Summary

25

            Research Aims

27

Survey Method

28

            Participants

28

            Design

28

            Materials

29

                        Religious Coping Scale - rationale, validity, reliability and scale description

29

                        Psychological Wellbeing Scale - rationale, validity, reliability and scale description

30

                        Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale - rationale, validity, reliability and scale description

32

            Procedure

33

                        Preliminary analysis

33

                        Statistical analysis

34

Interview Method

34

            Participants

34

            Design

35

            Materials

35

                        Coping, psychological wellbeing and spirituality question formation

35

            Procedure

35

                        Coding response set

36

            Ethical Aspects

36

Results

38 v

            Sweat and Non-Sweat Participants

38

                        Survey sweat participants

39

                        Interview sweat participants

40

            The Survey

40

                        Differences in religious coping between sweaters and non-sweaters

40

                        Differences in psychological wellbeing between sweaters and non-sweaters

42

                        Differences in spiritual involvement and beliefs between sweaters and non-sweaters

43

                        Relationship between spirituality and psychological wellbeing for sweaters

44

            Influence of Years on Sweat Experience

45

            The Interviews and On-line Question Responses

46

                        Sweaters experience of sweat ceremony: religious coping, psychological

46

                        Wellbeing and spirituality

46

                        Sweat ceremony themes

46

            Reports of Adverse Experiences of Sweat Ceremony

52

            What is Missing from Sweat Ceremony

54

Discussion

56

            Sweat Participants Understanding of Sweat Ceremony

56

            Years of Sweating

57

            Religious Coping, Psychological Wellbeing, Spirituality and Sweat Ceremony

57

                        Religious coping

58

                        Psychological wellbeing

59

                        Spirituality

60

            Sweat Therapy as a Transpersonal Therapeutic Framework within a BPSS Model of Health

62

                        East: psychological - vision, new beginnings, creativity

64

                        North: biological - strength, courage, determination

65

                        West: social - healing, humility, compassion

66 vi

                        South: spiritual - wisdom, knowledge, intuition

67

                        Centre: BPSS model of health - integration, balance, completeness

67

            What is Missing and Adverse Effects

68

Conclusion

71

            Limitations

73

            Implications and directions for future research

74

References

75

Appendices

83

 
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