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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Pastoral Clergy


Clergy Toolkit


Clergy Self-Care

Clergy members may experience a range of emotional reactions while working with trauma survivors. Listening to the stories of trauma survivors can be inspiring, and it may be difficult at times, as some stories are very hard to hear or even threaten a clergy member's own view of the world. The following reactions are common when working with trauma survivors.

Potential Emotional Reactions to Working with Trauma Survivors

  • Getting angry at the perpetrator
  • Experiencing anger at your Higher Power for permitting traumatic events to occur
  • Losing faith in the goodness of people
  • Colluding with Service members or Veterans to avoid talking about the traumatic event(s) or participating in trauma treatment
  • Feeling horrified or squeamish about the traumatic experience
  • Feeling powerless to help Service members or Veterans
  • Experiencing every clinical need as an emergency or urgent
  • Experiencing secondary traumatization, burnout, or compassion fatigue
  • Feeling numb or emotionless
  • Having thoughts or feelings related to your own trauma history triggered by your work with Service members or Veterans
  • Experiencing a powerful satisfaction in the work
  • A sense of greater self-knowledge, strength of faith, and meaning from working with Service members or Veterans
  • A spiritual connection with Service members or Veterans
  • Respect for the strength and resiliency exhibited by Service members or Veterans
If you notice yourself feeling regularly angry, fearful, or overwhelmed, seek support from colleagues or other professionals. Using peer and supervisory support is necessary to maintain healthy and ethical relations with Service members or Veterans. If you need support to cope with a personal history of trauma, seek mental health care. Coping with these reactions early can help prevent burnout and secondary traumatic stress, and can promote self-care.

PTSD Information Voice Mail: (802) 296-6300
Also see: VA Mental Health