Pastoral Care for Trauma Survivors:
The Clergy Trauma Training Project
The International Conference of War Veteran Ministers, in partnership with the Sidran Institute has developed a curriculum for a clergy trauma training project, and workshop models are being developed by Sidran. The curriculum, entitled Risking Connection in Faith Communities: A Training Curriculum for Faith Leaders Supporting Survivors of Interpersonal Trauma, is an adaptation of Risking Connection: A Training Curriculum for Workers with Survivors of Child Abuse. The curriculum, published in February, 2006, is intended to help clergy and congregations become safer and more supportive places for trauma survivors. The project was funded by a major grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.
The project has two major aspects:
This second book of the Risking Connection series looks at members of religious congregations who are survivors of interpersonal traumatic events and how clergy or lay leaders can be a healing presence in their lives. Because it is intended for leaders of faith communities it makes one significant departure from the original Risking Connection -- it assumes the reality of God in the lives of its readers and treats connection with God as a significant aspect of healing from trauma. This curriculum is intended to be useful to clergy of the major religions and denominations in the United States, and the authors have attempted to ensure that all characterizations of God from any particular faith perspective are used illustratively in sidebar examples.
This book will help clergy understand the nature of psychological trauma, how it affects people, and how faith leaders can help. Because the book is addressed to spiritual leaders, particular attention is paid to the spiritual impact of trauma. The five chapters can be summarized as follows:
This curriculum does not tell clergy how to do their job, but is intended to enhance the work they are already doing. It is not intended to make spiritual leaders into therapists, nor does it give a "cookbook" list of things to do when interacting with trauma survivors. Rather, clergy learn to access the resources that are already within them and to promote these resources through greater self-awareness.
- the experience of trauma can wound human beings in feelings, beliefs, judgment, frame of reference, memory and perception, and body and brian;
- relationships are central to healing from trauma;
- trauma affects our relationship with God, and our relationship with God contributes to our healing;
- those who help trauma survivors will be personally affected by the experience and self-care is imperative;
- communities are of great importance to the process of healing from trauma.
The writing team for the curriculum consisted of:
with significant assistance from
- Jackson Day, M. Div, MPH, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, Hampstead, Maryland, Second Vice President, International Conference of War Veteran Ministers, and former Chaplain, U. S. Army in Vietnam.
- Elizabeth Vermilyea, M.A. Independent Consultant, and former Director of Training at Sidran,
- Jennifer Wilkerson, M.A., former clinical staff at Sidran;
- Esther Giller, M. A., President and CEO, Sidran Institute
The curriculum is an adaptation of the initial Risking Connection text, written by psychologists Karen W. Saakvitne, Ph. D., Sarah Gamble, Ph. D., Laurie Anne Pearlman, Ph. D., and Beth Tabor Lev, Ph. D.
- Margaret Nelson-Pechota, Ph.D, psychotherapist and member of the International Conference of War Veteran Ministers
- Michele Balamani, M. Div, D. Min, ordained clergy of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and practicing pastoral psychotherapist with the Baraka Pastoral Counseling Center;
- Laurie Anne Pearlman, Ph. D., one of the authors of the original curriculum.
2. Workshop Presentation. Not an end in itself, the curriculum will be a tool to be employed in giving training workshops on trauma to clergy. Efforts are now being made to organize and fund opportunities for such workshops.
The first such opportunity took place July 22, 2002. A graduate-level seminary course, PC 229 Pastoral Care of Trauma Survivors in the Congregation based on the draft curriculum was offered at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D. C. Instructors were Jackson Day and Elizabeth Vermilyea.
A one day summary presentation model took place at the ICWVM Annual Meeting in Menlo Park, October 2006, conducted by Elizabeth Vermilyea.
Some of the possible models for training workshops for congregational clergy using the curriculum are:
Each of these possible scenarios is intended to reach clergy of all faiths who are currently serving as the spiritual leader of their respective congregations or faith communities. The intent is to provide clergy with with sufficient understanding of how trauma affects people and how healing is facilitated by growth promoting relationships as well as an understanding of how their role can be used to build community in the service of bringing healing to trauma survivors.
- A national or regional denominational agency organizes and funds a workshop for clergy in its jurisdiction.
- A regional or local consortium of faith communities and/or clergy organizes a workshop. Funding is obtained from a foundation or government agency.
- A pastoral counseling or mental health agency in a geographic area organizes and funds a workshop, expecting funds to be recouped via increased referrals from clergy.
- A government agency sponsors and funds an interfaith conference or workshop to train clergy as part of the government's faith-based initiative.
Project Background and History. Development of the curriculum was first discussed in 1999 with numerous organizations already concerned with clergy and trauma issuese. In July 2000 an all day meeting of clergy and trauma professionals added depth to our understanding of the issues which must be addressed. Congregational clergy of various denominations were surveyed to assess their understanding and experience of trauma. Presentations were made to professional groups,and a variety of stakeholders of this topic were asked to participate in various advisory discussions. Major funding received in the summer of 2001 permitted moving forward with the project's curriculum writing phase. Final editing took two years, with actual publication in February 2006. For more project background detail, see these separate pages:
Project Support and Endorsements. The project has received various expressions of support. On October 14, 2001, it received a formal expression of support from the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.
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