Negative Spiritual Responses to Trauma: Lessons From Urban Ministry Workers

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The work of urban ministry workers in urban community settings has much to offer to the field of trauma. Urban community settings are often filled with community violence, which may also include violence in the home or school. Urban settings are many times comprised of minority groups who live near the poverty line and experience issues of social and racial oppression. Minority groups are often religious and utilize religion and/or spirituality as a means to cope with stressors. However, exposure to trauma can have a profound impact on community members’ ability and desire to remain engaged in their spiritual beliefs. The goal of this study is to utilize the literature and data taken from focus groups with urban ministry workers to better understand themes of why people distance themselves from their religion/spirituality upon experiencing trauma. The results will demonstrate consistencies of themes identified in the literature, which were also found in the focus groups. Three major themes, several subthemes, and additional community descriptions were all coded for the purpose of describing the experience of families in the urban setting. Identified themes from the focus groups offered further insight into potential patterns of individuals and families moving away from spirituality upon experiencing trauma. Examples include areas of difficulty coping, influence of church experiences and issues of one’s own personal faith. Additionally, study limitations and considerations for further research will be explored.

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD)

First Advisor

Eriksson, Cynthia B.

Document Type





Psychic trauma, Stress, Protestant churches, Church work with minorities, Church work with the poor




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