Clergy Trauma Training Project Concept Paper, January 2000
In January 2000, the National Conference of Viet Nam Veteran Ministers announces the award of a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation which would partially fund development expenses for the Clergy Trauma Training Project. The following concept paper describes the project as it was viewed at the time.
The Need. A significant percentage (estimates vary; some estimate as high as 30%) of the American population are survivors of traumatic events such as combat, rape, domestic violence, child abuse which involve threats to life of oneself or others as well as betrayal. All survivors are affected by the experience; many experience the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, re-experiencing, numbing and hypervigilence. Predictably, trauma survivors are also found in faith communities. An important need of trauma survivors, and an important role of faith communities, is to provide safe settings for restoration of connections to a person's self, others, and God; however, little training is offered to clergy and church leaders on pastoral care for trauma survivors. The word "trauma" does not appear in the current course catalog of at least one major seminary and even specific masters and doctoral degree programs in pastoral counseling do not offer a separate course in psychological trauma. Yet because betrayal of a person's expectations of 'what's right' is an element, trauma significantly stresses an individual's spirituality.
The Opportunity. The Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute of Towson, Maryland, in expression of its mission of education and advocacy in support of persons with traumatic stress conditions, is currently in press with a new curriculum entitled "Risking Connection," which is oriented to front line personnel in public mental health systems. Both Sidran and the curriculum's writers at TREATI (Trauma Research Education and Training Institute) in South Windsor, Connecticut, are enthusiastic about producing an adaptation of the curriculum for clergy and church leaders. The National Conference of Viet Nam Veteran Ministers, an ecumenical association of clergy and full time religious workers who are Vietnam veterans, many of whom suffer from PTSD and/or provide services to trauma survivors in Veterans hospitals and outreach centers, finds itself ideally situated as a bridge between survivor, treater, and religious leadership. NCVNVM finds the following features of the "Risking Connection" curriculum especially noteworthy:
The curriculum is intended not just for psychotherapists but for the full variety of mental health personnel who may encounter a patient.
The curriculum, as suggested by its name, emphasizes the importance of the relationship between treater and treated as a healing resource.
The curriculum is built around the concept that the most important things a treater can offer are Respect, Information, Connection, and Hope.
The curriculum takes self-care for the treater seriously, devoting an entire chapter to addressing the potential for treaters to become vicariously traumatized by recurring exposure to the traumas of the treated, as well as the need for treaters to understand the potential risk of boundary violations because of the nature of the relationship with trauma survivors.
An informal survey in August 1999 of clergy serving in many different roles, from parish clergy to theological school faculty to professional counselor revealed no awareness of any similar curriculum in existence and a strong feeling that such a curriculum is needed and would be helpful to clergy. Sidran and NCVNVM are currently defining the terms of their collaboration to produce Risking Connection for Clergy.
The Project. There will be four overlapping phases:
1. Constituency Development, including identification of potential denominational stakeholders in such a curriculum, securing advisory and review boards, writers and editors, and soliciting adequate funding to complete the project
2. Curriculum Writing, including identification and design of adaptations required in Risking Connection, creation of illustrative materials, writing, and expert review.
3. Publishing, including editing, document design, production, sales and distribution.
4. Training, including promotion to church denominations and other appropriate organizations, as well as design, conduct and evaluation of training workshops for a variety of audiences in a variety of settings.
Issues To Be Addressed. The work to be undertaken during the project development phase will consist of tasks such as the following:
Review of the literature related to pastoral care of trauma survivors. The review will serve not only to minimize duplication but also identify any additional resources which need to be tapped.
Identifying the different roles of parish clergy, pastoral counselors, and other church leadership who encounter trauma survivors, and appropriate role expectation for each. Identifying similarities and differences between these roles and roles of persons in the public mental health system, thinking through the implications of these differences, and adapting Risking Connection accordingly.
Determining how best to help clergy who need to provide counseling from a particular theological perspective.
Ensuring appropriate input from theological schools and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors at the various points of designing and implementing this project.
Establishing appropriate linkages with theological school leadership and judicatory
administrative leadership to seek advice on curriculum design as well as training workshop implementation.
Following publication, dissemination of the curriculum in such a way as to impact both theological education as well as current parish practice, whether large or small, urban or rural.
Involvement Requested. NCVNVM is currently undertaking the Phase I task of identifying the people who are most concerned with mental health and mental illness in several denominations, identifying the resources which currently exist, identifying the nature and extent of potential support for this project, and the avenues for dissemination and training which already exist or can be treated. NCVNVM leadership is looking for ways to join in discussions of ways faith communities can become more effective channels of God's grace to trauma survivors. We are looking for ways to expand our list of people who are concerned with these issues and where they fit in their faith community.
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