Religious Trauma Sociological Study

**Donors of any amount will receive free access to a digital PDF copy of SHERM Journal (Vol. 3, No. 2).**


The Global Center for Religious Research (GCRR) has established the world's first and most comprehensive psychiatric research group to study the causes, manifestations, and treatment options for those suffering from "religious trauma" (RT). GCRR has built an international team of licensed psychiatrists, therapists, sociologists, university professors, religion scholars, and Ph.D. candidates from around the world, all who specialize in the field of trauma research.

However, the complexities of the term “trauma” is often misunderstood by even therapeutic practitioners, particularly when addressing prolonged exposure to systemic institutional abuse. This is why GCRR had established a temporary North American Committee on Religious Trauma Research (NACRTR), consisting of some of the nation’s leading experts on religion and trauma, in order to provide the psychiatric community with a more precise and clinically-valid definition of “religious trauma.”

What is Religious Trauma?
​On Sunday, November 8, 2020, the North American Committee on Religious Trauma Research (NACRTR) had come up with an official definition to help characterize the nature, scope, and meaning of "religious trauma." The official definition is as follows:

"Religious trauma results from an event, series of events, relationships, or circumstances within or connected to religious beliefs, practices, or structures that is experienced by an individual as overwhelming or disruptive and has lasting adverse effects on a person’s physical, mental, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being."

Where is the Empirical Data?
In order for victims of religious trauma to receive the help they need, we need to arrive at a place in our culture where religious trauma is accepted as a real condition, not just a subset of PTSD or some other anxiety disorder. Within our culture, we need to recognize that even though there are many prosocial aspects of religious belief, certain religious contexts have also been responsible for a number of traumatic experiences for people all around the globe.

Unfortunately, the academic study of religious trauma remains in its infancy when compared to other studies in mental health.
Sadly, this means that there is no actual empirical data to support what we have seen and experienced in the tens of thousands: that religious trauma exists and is a chronic problem within many religions. GCRR intends to correct this gap of knowledge by offering an interdisciplinary and scientific examination of the origins, impact, and treatment options of religious trauma.

Objectives of the Research Project
As a research-driven institute, GCRR recognizes the need to provide mental health professionals, as well as religious specialists, with scientifically-derived, factual data in order to begin work on understanding and then treating religious trauma. Thus, once funded, GCRR will partner with Springtide Research Institute to conduct a nationwide sociological study on those impacted by religious trauma in the United States. This sociological study will be the first of its kind and will provide the foundational empirical data necessary to educate and hopefully prevent religious trauma from occurring in the future. Once the study has been peer-reviewed and then published, it will be used to educate doctors and clinical psychologists on how best to treat individuals suffering from RT. These components will then form the basis of GCRR’s petition to have RT listed in future editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), though not as an isolated diagnosis or mental disorder.

Furthermore, GCRR Press will then be able to publish a large-scale textbook for practitioners, patients, and researchers, which will be one of the most comprehensive publications on the study of religious trauma (RT). Currently, the outline for this textbook includes chapters on:

~Why the Study of RT is important;
~Historical, social, and cultural aspects of RT;
~Psychological and clinical methods for studying RT;
~Issues in defining RT;
~Causes and triggers of RT;
~Physical, psychological, interpersonal, and emotional manifestations of RT; and,
~Effective and ineffective treatments for RT (particularly as it relates to methods for treating other afflictions like PTSD).

Certain members of the 30-member project will contribute unique research from multiple fields of study for inclusion in the publication. The completed textbook will feature an examination of more nuanced interpersonal aspects of religious trauma, such as the differences between children and adults who suffer from RT in terms of symptoms, causes, triggers, as well as the correlations between brain activity and behavioral symptoms. Moreover, an examination of the role that power differentials have on marginalized groups, such as racial minorities, women, and the LGBTQ+ community, will also be included in order to better understand the societal and cultural impacts of RT. There will also be research into best treatment practices in regard to cultural, relational, and institutional identities. 

Each contributing author will complete their research using the most currently accepted, discipline-specific methodologies, including quantifiable sociological data, qualitative psychoanalyses, and socio-historical contextual examinations. Some of the specific methodologies that will be included in the research are somatic trauma therapy, polyvagal theory, a combination of individual and group therapy, rational emotive behavioral therapy, and music therapy. Other unique contributions will include the formation of a diagnostic Acute Stress Disorder Interview variation to help determine whether a patient is currently suffering from religious trauma. These individual studies will aid in legitimizing religious trauma as an important mental health topic, both for the psychologists, therapists, and doctors who treat RT and for those who suffer from it.

Further objectives of the study include:

~examining the relationship between religious contexts and trauma symptoms to allow for quantitative predictions of clinical psychopathology related to RT;
~informing the clinical assessment of trauma-exposed individuals by providing an accurate and objective quantitative estimation of religious psychopathology;
~providing professional counselors and therapists a better understanding of the neurological effects of religiously-related suffering and how best to treat victims or RT;
~utilizing a national sociological survey to identify the number of people in the U.S. who suffer from RT;
~creating a diagnostic tool for use in clinical settings in order to help identify patients who suffer from RT;
~and publishing the results in both textbook and peer-reviewed academic journal formats for widespread dissemination and utilization in research.

Why Resort to Crowdfunding?
Sadly, all federal funding for mental health research in the U.S. has stopped for the time being, and we now have to turn to the public for help.
Broader Intellectual Merits
Individuals victimized by some religious groups or teachings have endured issues such as child abuse, rape, molestation, and many other harmful experiences. However, no studies have been put forth to validate the existence of "religious trauma" or to enhance our clinical understanding of how best to treat these individuals. For now, patients with signs of religious trauma are left without answers or an understanding of their experiences. GCRR aims to fill this gap of knowledge. The objective and potential outcome of the Religious Trauma Research is to make religious trauma identifiable in an official, clinical setting, as well as to normalize the identity for patients and practitioners alike.

Broader impacts of the study also include:

~providing the first clinical definition of “religious trauma” from a specialized committee of experts and practitioners in the field of trauma research, which helps distinguish it from other diagnosable afflictions like PTSD;
~taking an interdisciplinary approach by involving professional sociologists and religion specialists to elaborate on the historical, social, and cultural aspects of RT;
~exploring many of the physical, psychological, interpersonal, and emotional manifestations of RT with special attention to differences in children and adult sufferers;
~examining the role that power differentials have on marginalized groups, such as racial minorities, women, and the LGBTQ+ community;
and establishing guidelines in diagnosing and promoting best-practice treatments for patients suffering from RT.

Donations (40)

  • Marion Fowler
    • $25 
    • 5 mos
  • Deanna Robinson
    • $25 
    • 1 yr
  • Mitchell Cohen
    • $50 
    • 1 yr
  • Anonymous
    • $10 
    • 1 yr
  • Melissa Walker
    • $10 
    • 1 yr


Darren Slade
Denver, CO

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