Complex Trauma and Disasters: Offering Spiritual Care – CRIS 306

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 07/28/2020

Course Description

This course will examine the role of faith-based organizations, faith communities, and pastors and clergy in the care of emotional and spiritual health in individuals, communities, and organizations following trauma and disaster. Specifically, topics will include the life cycle of a disaster, exclusive types of trauma and disasters, models of response for faith-based communities, collaborative efforts between mental health professionals and faith-based services, and other salient factors for effective emotional and spiritual care.


CRIS 302


Disasters and trauma are inevitable, and research has consistently shown that many people turn to the church or faith community for help. In fact, some studies have shown that most people will not only turn first, but in many cases only to spiritual care providers. In fact, in a 2001 survey by the American Red Cross only one month after 9/11, nearly 60 percent of those polled were likely or very likely to turn to a spiritual leader for help, whereas only 40 percent were likely or very likely to turn to a mental health professional. The need for pastors/ clergy to have a collaborative and planned response to crises and disaster cannot be understated for the emotional and spiritual health of the individuals, congregations, communities, and organizations they serve.

Measurable Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Explain the symptoms and nature of complex trauma and disasters and the effects on the body, mind, emotions, and spiritual dimension of individuals, groups, and communities.
  2. Explain the stages of disaster response and implement intervention strategies for emotional and spiritual care during each stage.
  3. Compare and contrast various types of crisis intervention in disasters and articulate and implement collaboration plans between faith-based and mental health services.
  4. Examine, discuss, and integrate all issues, theories, assumptions, materials, etc., presented in the course in accord with current scholarly standards and practices.
  5. Examine, discuss, and integrate all issues, theories, assumptions, materials, etc., presented in the course through the lens of Scripture.
  6. Analyze and apply the components of comprehensive trauma assessment, considering the differential impact trauma has emotionally and spiritually on individuals, families, groups, and communities of faith.
  7. Explain how spirituality and religion can support survivor healing and how it can cause further harm.
  8. Implement an appropriate plan of action that includes applying Incident Command System (ICS) management principles to a crisis or disaster response operation.
  9. Explain the importance of being culturally adept when responding to a crisis in an unfamiliar culture, especially as it relates to sex trafficking, genocide, and related trauma.

Course Assignment

Textbook readings and lecture presentations

Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in Module/Week 1.

Discussion Board Forums (5)

Discussion boards are collaborative learning experiences. Therefore, the student will post a thread in response to the provided prompt for each forum. Each thread must be a minimum of 400 words. In addition to the thread, the student is required to reply to 1 other classmate’s thread. Each reply must be a minimum of 200 words. Threads must address the topic in a clear and concise fashion, using outside sources (quotes from the course textbooks, other books, and/or journal articles) as needed to support the student’s point. (CLOs A, B, D, E, G, I)

Theology of Suffering Paper

Prior to turning in the research paper, the student will turn in a 1-page summary (in current APA format with title page, abstract, and reference page) of his/her personal theology of suffering for the instructor’s feedback prior to the research paper being turned in. This will help the student fully think through his/her own theology prior to turning in the paper. (CLOs E, F, G)

Annotated Bibliography

The student will turn in an annotated bibliography to help prepare for the case study (in current APA format with title page). The student will include three references from scholarly journals from within the last seven years. One of the three references should be from theological or biblical perspective. (CLOs, D, G,)

Case Study

The student will turn in a 5-page case study (in current APA format with title page, and reference page, an abstract is not needed) of his/her disaster response plan in the church. The paper will include at least three scholarly references in addition to the textbooks and the Bible. The student will choose a current event and develop a disaster response plan addressing each of the following aspects: stages of disaster response, apply the Incident Command System to disaster response, outline specific interventions and assessments, discuss collaboaration with various organizations (Red Cross, FEMA, etc), addess cultural considerations, and the importance self care. Finally, in the conclusion the student will assess the appropriate spiritual response including any plans for follow-up. (CLOs A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I)

Exams (4)

There will be 4 exams over the video presentation materials. You will be viewing 15 presentations embedded in the course, each about 50 minutes. As you view these, take notes on the content which you will then be allowed to use when taking the exams.

The exams are composed of 20 multiple-choice and true/false questions and are timed. Each exam is open-book/open-notes and contains a 30-minute time limit. Only by becoming familiar with the material in advance, will the exams be completed successfully. Time begins when the exam is opened, and multiple attempts are not allowed. The questions are selected at random, so each exam will vary in its content. (CLOs A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I)