The Role of the Local Church in Addressing Trauma in African-American Communities: An Examination of Relevant Empirical Literature


Sarah A. Hill

Publication Date



Research has indicated the existence of patterns of elevated levels of community violence (CV) in urban neighborhoods heavily populated by African-Americans. Although this kind of recurring trauma can contribute to both subjective and clinical distress for members of these communities, researchers have found an underutilization of mental health resources by African-Americans. Conversely, literature has described a tradition of African-Americans seeking help from local Christian churches and/or utilizing individual spiritual resources. Given general underutilization of typical psychotherapy and reliance on the local church for support, community psychologists must consider how to support pastors in meeting the needs of traumatized individuals. In this review, the author will examine the available empirical literature regarding various ways churches can intervene with African-Americans experiencing repeated trauma. Of twenty-one total articles on interventions in the church, ten related directly to trauma, three to physical health, and eight to broad mental health. Six major themes arose across all articles related to the role of the pastor, pastoral ministry activities, meeting practical needs, informal and formal programs for healing, the development of collaborative relationships and mobilization of people in the community, and changing perceptions of trauma within the church. Implications for psychologists and pastors are discussed, with an emphasis on relationship building and increased research in this area.

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD)

First Advisor

Eriksson, Cynthia B.

Document Type





African Americans, Psychic trauma, Psychotherapy, Pastoral counseling, Pastoral care.




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