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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Pastoral Treatment


Clergy Toolkit


Supporting Those in Treatment

There are many ways clergy can support Service members or Veterans who are engaged in treatment for PTSD. For example, they can reinforce the idea that psychotherapy requires time and work outside of sessions. Additionally, clergy can encourage Service members or Veterans to attend treatment regularly and complete assigned homework. Finally, clergy can encourage Service members or Veterans to talk about their reactions to the treatments, including medication side effects, and concerns about their treatment providers, directly with the providers themselves.

Specific spiritual and religious concerns and questions that Service members or Veterans may discuss with clergy can sometimes be relevant for psychotherapy as well. Clergy can encourage Service members or Veterans to discuss their spiritual and religious concerns in treatment.
Sometimes Service members or Veterans may express feelings or disclose issues to clergy members that they have not shared with their mental health provider or physician. For example, they may say that they intend to discontinue treatment or stop taking prescribed medications without discussing this with their health care provider. Both physical and mental health care proceed best when health care providers have the maximum amount of relevant information about their clients. In these instances, it is important for clergy members to encourage Service members or Veterans to share their feelings, reactions and plans with their health care provider.

In some circumstances it may be useful for the Service member or Veterans to have a combined session with both clergy and the health care provider(s) present. Mental health providers and physicians generally cannot speak with community clergy about a Service member or Veteran unless the Service member or Veteran has given written permission to do so.

What If It's a Mental Health Emergency?

Hearing Service members or Veterans discuss thoughts of harming themselves or others can be frightening, and it is important to take such statements seriously and evaluate risks. You must follow your state's legal mandates for mental health emergencies in order to ensure safety for all.

After the crisis situation is stabilized, if another provider has not already done so, you should refer the Service member or Veteran for mental health treatment.

Here are some additional resources that can help:

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