Theses Doctoral

The Role of Mental Imagery within the Practice of Spiritual Healing

Peck, Sarah Buffington

Arguably, the practice of spiritual healing is simple in that it requires only the human body without utilizing a known physical means of intervention. Yet, it is confounding because its mechanisms, such as the belief and ability of the healer, are unable to be measured with a device. Given that, in recent years, spiritual healing has been found to be among the most prevalent practices in the field of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and that studies measuring its efficacy show variable results, it is important to understand its underlying mechanisms. Researchers have been studying the practice of spiritual healing, finding that, although the spiritual healer is not considered an actual device, metaphorically speaking, evidence suggests that she or he appears to be the most refined “instrument” of measurement. In order to gain an in-depth understanding of the perceptions of spiritual healers, this qualitative case study asks: what is the role of the mental imagery of ten spiritual healers and their three clients over the course of three spiritual healings? To determine this, the study presents the following subquestions: 1) How do spiritual healers construct, experience, and express mental imagery during a spiritual healing treatment? 2) What kind, if any, comparability is there across different constructions, experiences, and expressions of mental imagery during a spiritual healing as described by the spiritual healers and their clients? Among other findings, this study found that the spiritual healers constructed, experienced, and expressed mental imagery in three main ways, including 1) initial perceptions, 2) meaning and interpretations, and 3) perceptions of spiritual healing. These themes existed for all of the spiritual healers across all cases. Within each of these themes, the researcher then generated a list of subthemes that were most prevalent. This study found that the subthemes and statements were overlapping and distinct to each case. Additionally, this was further confirmed by overlaps among the spiritual healers’ perceptions as they related to each of their clients’ accounts, reiterating that the spiritual healers constructed, experienced, and expressed mental imagery that was specific to each of their clients.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Interdisciplinary Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Burton, Judith M.
Yorks, Lyle
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
January 22, 2020