Trauma-Informed Care Meets Spiritual Care: Training and Resource-Building for Faith Leaders

The “Trauma Informed Care” movement has become a powerful influence in the fields of medicine, mental health and social services.[1]  By highlighting the significance of trauma in shaping mental and physical health profiles, it has helped guide service professionals to improve the delivery of multiple forms of care. It has also enabled more sensitive and culturally appropriate interactions, by educating service providers about sources of racial, gender, sexual and economic trauma, and assisting providers in changing dynamics likely to cause re-traumatization.

Faith leaders are often in a position to need to understand and respond to trauma, and related forms of distress, suffering, and mental illness. Victims of violence, grieving family members, and people struggling with mental and physical health challenges may turn to clergy exclusively, or before reaching out to community mental health resources. Faith leaders also work, as chaplains, in a range of medical settings, including in hospitals and hospice. However, faith leaders have been largely neglected by the trauma-informed care movement, and are too often forgotten by municipal and community organizations invested in training service providers in many other spheres to work with vulnerable populations. In turn, many faith leaders have inadequate awareness of secular resources available to manage and treat mental illness, and to remedy social conditions – such as poverty and domestic violence – that facilitate and escalate mental illness. “Trauma Informed Care Meets Spiritual Care” is a remedy for these existing deficits, and encourages secular and faith-based collaboration in improving communal responses to trauma, mental illness, and violence.

This project represents a non-denominational partnership between secular and inter-faith community organizations, and will offer a range of training opportunities, including webinars, workshops, and digital and print curriculum to faith leaders from any background or religious site, within the state of California. The project builds on prior collaboration between Repair and faith organizations in Southern California in providing non-denominational training on trauma to chaplains working in hospital, hospice, and prison settings. 

In addition to assessment of project impact through quantitative participant evaluations, the program design will benefit from initial focus groups with faith leaders to identify sites of and concerns about trauma, and from 3-month and 1-year follow-up digital data collection, including closed- and open-ended questions, in order to assess the training efficacy in influencing practice for the benefit of people with mental illness. Sample curriculum and research findings will be made accessible without cost to the public, in order to maximize the project impact on future practice.

[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Trauma Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services, 2014