PTSD: National Center for PTSD
This toolkit was created for clergy who work with our Nation's Veterans and Service members who have or are at risk for developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Much of what is contained here is also helpful to clergy members supporting other, non-military trauma survivors.
Clergy and spiritual communities play an important role in supporting Service members and Veterans in their personal well-being and spiritual health. Clergy members often serve as front line mental health responders. A recent study suggested that nearly a quarter of all individuals with mental health disorders initially seek clergy for help1. For many people, clergy are the only ones who learn of and provide help for their mental health problems1. This is not surprising given the known stigma around mental health treatment in this country2.
As a clergy member, your knowledge of military culture, the spiritual and religious impact of PTSD, and how to make treatment referrals will help you provide support and connect those in need to services. Many Service members who have deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families will seek out clergy to talk about difficulties they are experiencing in readjusting to life after deployment. In addition, Service members and Veterans from prior eras have long valued and sought out clergy for support and guidance in times of stress. For this reason, it is important for clergy members to have knowledge about common reactions to the readjustment process, including knowledge about trauma, PTSD, and effective treatments.
The role of clergy supporting Service members and Veterans with PTSD varies depending on the setting and client needs. For example, chaplains in healthcare settings or in the military often play an adjunctive role in treatment, whereas clergy members in the community may be more focused on making referrals and providing support during treatment. Ideally a Service member or Veteran with PTSD would be engaged in an evidence-based PTSD treatment. In these cases, he or she may want their treatment provider and clergy member to work collaboratively. Other Service members or Veterans may prefer to discuss their experiences solely with a clergy member.
This toolkit provides easy-to-use resources to aid clergy in their work with Veterans and Service members who have or who are at risk for developing PTSD. Some materials will be more helpful to members of the clergy working in the community, whereas other content will be more helpful to clergy who serve as chaplains in the military and in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). There are also tips on how to care for yourself while working with those who have PTSD.
NOTE: Unless otherwise stated, the term clergy, or phrase clergy members, is used to represent community clergy, VA and Military Chaplains, and other spiritual leaders. We use the terms Higher Power and God interchangeably.