Secondary Traumatic Stress, Burnout and Compassion Satisfaction Among Ministry Workers: An Exploratory Study of the Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Publication Date



Ministry workers often serve on the front lines of responding to individuals who have experienced trauma (Drescher & Foy, 2010). This work can often be taxing and may result in ministry workers experiencing adverse effects. The Professional Quality of Life scale (ProQOL; Stamm, 2010) highlights secondary traumatic stress (STS), burnout and compassion satisfaction (CS) as differing reactions to working with survivors of trauma. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale (ACES; Felitti et al., 1998) assesses the role of childhood trauma as a risk/resiliency factor. In this study, I examined the ways in which ministry workers experience trauma related material in their ministry contexts and in their own lives. Ministry workers (N = 211) completed a self-report survey. Hierarchical multiple regressions revealed total number of ACES predicted STS, but did not significantly predict burnout or CS. Participants self-report of the likelihood of working with trauma survivors in their ministry contexts was indicated as a significant predictor of CS. Additionally, narrative data regarding ministry workers’ report of the impact of their work was coded utilizing ProQOL constructs (STS, burnout and CS) as pre-determined themes. Additional themes reported by participants included spiritual impacts, self-care and no change (to well-being). These findings suggest that early childhood trauma may play a unique role in relation to ministry-related stress. Additionally, the frequent report of positive spiritual impacts demonstrates that future studies would benefit from exploring the unique role of spirituality/religion as a resilience factor.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Eriksson, Cynthia B.

Document Type





Pastors, Clergy, Secondary traumatic stress, Compassion fatigue, Burnout, Burn out, Compassion satisfaction, Professional Quality of Life scale, ProQOL, Adverse childhood experiences, ACES, Spiritual impacts, Self-care, Psychology and religion, Pastoral psychology


Clinical Psychology


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