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Title: Exploring experiences of unusual beliefs
Author: Taylor, J.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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Experiencing a 'delusion', or unusual belief (UB) is common in the context of a range of neurological and psychological difficulties. For over a century they have been widely studied in many fields and the term has been used to describe many phenomena in which people believe something that is not commonly shared by their wider communities. Despite extensive research exploring the mechanisms by which UBs may occur, less attention has been paid to the experience of those who hold UBs, and the informal carers and supporters who are profoundly affected by them. Exploring experiential accounts of UBs is an important avenue of research to inform effective and acceptable psychological interventions, and reduce barriers to engagement with services. The first chapter of this thesis is a systematic review. The review aimed to identify peer reviewed qualitative studies exploring first hand experiences of UBs, and systematically review the findings to evaluate where this may complement and enhance current understanding, and inform improved clinical intervention. The aim was established in light of the limited attention to individual qualitative studies, often overlooked in evidence reviews, which results in inattention to experiential narratives and the service users' voice in the planning and designing of clinical interventions. This review was prepared for submission to Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice (Appendix A), selected for its focus on advancing understanding of vulnerability, adjustment and recovery, and cognitive and emotional factors, in relation to psychological difficulties. The second chapter in this thesis is an empirical grounded theory study. As there is limited understanding of carers' experiences of UBs, despite the additional burden they present, this study aimed to develop understanding of those experiences. The objective was to develop a model to explain the differences in outcomes for carers, and highlight the factors that underlie acceptance of beliefs. This study was prepared for submission to the British Journal of Psychology (Appendix B). Having incorporated participants across diagnostic boundaries, this journal was selected due to its approach to incorporating studies that may not fit within the narrow focus of alternative publications, and the inclusion of studies that enhance psychological understanding. The evidence from the combined studies suggest that people who are experiencing UBs in the context of psychosis are seeking validation of experiences, and support in managing emotions so they can openly explore beliefs. This enables them to integrate personal idiosyncratic explanations for UBs with widely shared and accepted frameworks of understanding to achieve recovery. This necessitates acceptance of unusual ideas and explanations from others. Some carers are motivated to develop a psychosocial understanding of UBs, which facilitates acceptance. These carers focus on minimising distress and offering supportive listening or dialogue, which meets the needs of the person experiencing UBs. These carers are less likely to experience the high stress and burden, often caused by UBs, and achieve more positive outcomes, while providing the optimum environment for ongoing caregiving or recovery.
Supervisor: Williams, James ; Corcoran, Rhiannon Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral