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SpIRE/WIT offer PhD scholarship

Applications are invited for a co-funded PhD research programme established between the School of Humanities at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and the Spirituality Institute for Research and Education (SpIRE), Milltown Park, Dublin.

The research project is entitled Hunger For Food, Hunger for Life: The Inner Spiritual World of Women Who Have Overcome Eating Disorders and it will focus on the extent that women in Ireland have used spiritual practices in dealing with eating disorders. Application details and forms are available here. The scholarship competition will close at 4:00pm Irish time on the 15 January 2021.

Dr Bernadette Flanagan of SpIRE/WIT is co-ordinating the project and she is confident that the findings will have the potential to contribute a unique range of interventions for the treatment of the growing numbers of young women with eating disorders in Ireland.

Figures show that an estimated 188,895 Irish people will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives and according to Dr Flanagan approximately three-quarters of these people are women. “In Ireland, the extent to which women have used spiritual interventions in the journey through eating disorders has not been researched, despite some articles in the public media providing narrative accounts of effective spiritual interventions,” says Dr Flanagan, adding, “The personal accounts that have been publicized discuss how finding stillness, practicing gratitude, using expressive prayer or connecting with a Higher Power, has assisted in the journey of recovery.”

The successful researcher will employ an exploratory methodology to identify spiritual interventions that were used by women aged 35-65, says Dr Flanagan, adding that they will also be required to assess the academic literature regarding such spiritual interventions or discover their lineage.

In addition, the researcher “will also be asked to investigate how the choice of spiritual practices by Irish clients converge or diverge with the choices made by those who have recovered from eating disorders in studies in other parts of the world,” she says, noting that an analysis of the narratives of research participants will also be necessary. “This is to identify any generic characteristics of spiritual resilience that are specific to the eating disorder recovery journey. This can be done by collating with parallel personal histories reported in narrative medicine findings.”

The study will employ “desk-based, narrative, and contemplative research methodologies,” according to Dr Flanagan. “It will be retrospective in focus and will not seek to undertake medical interventions.”

The HSE’s National Clinical Programme for Eating Disorders (2018; p.110), speaks of the need for ‘specialist’ care for spiritual issues related to eating disorders. “It is noted, but not developed,” according to Dr Flanagan who concludes, “It’s providing a hint for future directions of treatment that need further research, such as the project being proposed here.”