Transforming Extraordinary Experiences Into the Concept of Schizophrenia: A Case Study of a Norwegian Psychiatric Unit

Terkelsen, Toril; Blystad, Astrid; Hydle, Ida
November 2005
Ethical Human Psychology & Psychiatry;Fall/Winter2005, Vol. 7 Issue 3, p229
Academic Journal
Case Study
The dominating paradigm in Western psychiatry is grounded in biomedical thinking, and biological explanations appear to increasingly take the lead. There has been a shift from a psychological approach to the treatment of such experiences to a biomedical framework, with medication and medicine compliance at its core. Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia often tell about extraordinary experiences, such as encounters with UFOs and angels. Drawing upon data collected during 8 months of fieldwork in a Norwegian psychiatric rehabilitation clinic, we explore the translation, transformation and transition of such experiences into psychiatric terminology based upon biomedical knowledge and understanding. We approach these issues with extended reference to a particular patient's experiences, which appeared to represent a fairly typical scenario at this Norwegian and other treatment units. We take a close view into how a patient in a psychiatric rehabilitation unit explains and interprets his extraordinary experiences, how he perceives the manner in which his experiences are confronted by professionals within the psychiatric field of knowledge, and how these phenomena are explained and handled by professionals. The article closes with some indications of potential consequences of employing a different approach to extraordinary experiences.


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