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Sometimes the Cure is Part of the Disease: Possession, Abduction, and Spirituality in Mental Health Treatments


This paper explores the topics of alien abduction and jinn possession in the context of modern medicine. I contrast the different kinds of treatments that victims of abduction and possession seek out, which include modern psychiatry, hypnotic therapy, and traditional religious ritual. According to their own testimonies, patients who feel believed and understood are better able to heal, and analysis of treatment efficacies supports this conclusion as well. Accordingly, I argue that the most effective treatments for those who claim to have been possessed or abducted are those that accept the ontological reality of the abduction or possession experience.

Some psychiatrists have suggested incorporating traditional Islamic healing rituals into clinical treatments for Muslims suffering from jinn possession. I argue that mental health professionals should similarly respect the religious dimensions of abduction experiences and understand that such experiences are not indicative of psychopathology. In the final section, I explore how the fields of psychiatry and psychology are already incorporating elements of spirituality into their treatments, and suggest that traditional treatments for possession and abduction provide potential frameworks for invoking spirituality in future treatments for mental health.

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