Faith to Move Mountains

Religious Coping, Spirituality, and Interpersonal Trauma Recovery

Published in: American Psychologist, v. 68, no. 8, Nov. 2013, p. 675-684

Posted on RAND.org on November 01, 2013

by Thema Bryant-Davis, Eunice C. Wong

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Interpersonal trauma is pervasive globally and may result in long-term consequences physically, cognitively, behaviorally, socially, and spiritually (Bryant-Davis, 2005b). One of the protective factors that have emerged in the literature is religious coping. Religious coping, spirituality, and faith-based approaches to trauma recovery include endorsement of beliefs, engagement in behaviors, and access to support from faith communities. Compared with negative religious coping, spirituality and positive religious coping have been associated with decreased psychological distress, a finding established with survivors of child abuse, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, community violence, and war. This article focuses on spiritual and religious coping among survivors of child abuse, sexual violence, and war; however, research demonstrates increased use of positive religious coping among some survivors with higher rates of posttraumatic stress disorder. Much of the scholarship in this area includes qualitative studies with populations who face increased vulnerability to interpersonal trauma. Research in this area covers the life span from childhood to later adulthood and encompasses both domestic and international studies. The implications of research findings are explored, and future research needs are described. This line of research supports the American Psychological Association (2010) ethical standards that note the recognition of spiritual and religious faith traditions as important aspects of the provision of ethical treatment. Researchers, clinicians, and advocates for trauma survivors are encouraged to attend to the faith traditions and beliefs of persons confronting the potential devastation of traumatic events.

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