Chapter 6 The Camino de Santiago and Wellbeing: an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Pilgrimage Experiences of Australian Women

In: Pilgrimage as Transformative Process
Kate Hetherington
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Pilgrimage is a phenomenon that is continuing to grow in popularity, with millions of people from almost every known religion and region worldwide participating each year. Of the known pilgrimage routes worldwide, the Camino de Santiago is documented to be particularly popular, with approximately 200,000 people visiting in 2013 alone. Although motivations for this particular pilgrimage vary, a common component is the idea that the pilgrimage journey may be beneficial to the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual wellbeing of participants. However, the literature surrounding the motivations for and therapeutic benefits of pilgrimage has primarily been focused in areas of anthropology, geography, sociology, and theology, with the field of psychology remaining largely silent. Therefore, a study was conducted which aimed to examine the pilgrimage experiences of Australian women, in order to investigate motivations for pilgrimage, and the contribution of pilgrimage to wellbeing both during and after the journey. Five women were interviewed, with transcripts analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The semi-structured interview items were based on previous pilgrimage research, and adapted for use within an Australian context via the utilisation of a wellbeing construct. The analysis produced 4 themes of (a) locus of control, (b) connection and appreciation, (c) simplicity, and (d) the grief experience, contributing to the notion that pilgrimage leads to improved biopsychosocial and spiritual wellbeing. This discussion focused on the experiences of Claude, and offered suggestions for future research.

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