Date of Conferral







Susana Verdenelli


Psychosis is a central concept in mental health, yet the concept is unclear. Clinicians are challenged with the task to be able to distinguish psychotic phenomena; however, little is known about how clinicians are able to distinguish religious/spiritual phenomena from psychotic phenomena, as both may be similar in presentation. The focus of this dissertation was on understanding the perspectives and distinguishing processes of mental health professionals when distinguishing between religious/spiritual and psychotic phenomena. Taking a generic qualitative framework approach, the study included face-to-face and telephone interviews with 10 licensed mental health professionals recruited through social media and snowball sampling. Interviews were audiorecorded, transcribed verbatim, and then coded and analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis. Three main themes resulted: trauma is an important consideration when exploring religious/spiritual and psychotic phenomena; clinical experience is multifaceted; and similar language is used to describe religious/spiritual and psychotic phenomena. The study is significant because it gave mental health professionals an opportunity to share their understanding of the phenomena of psychosis as well as their distinguishing processes, and how they talk about religious/spiritual and psychotic phenomena. Future research should focus on (a) the role of trauma when considering psychotic-like phenomena, (b) increasing culture competence related to religious/spiritual competence, and (c) encouraging and facilitating conversations that include cultural religious/spiritual content.