Complex Trauma and Disasters: Offering Emotional and Spiritual Care – CRIS 609

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.




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

Discussion Board Forums (4)

The Discussion Board forums are the online equivalent of a classroom discussion among students. Threads must address the topic in a clear and concise fashion, using outside sources (quotes from our texts, other books and/or journal articles) as needed to support one’s point. In addition, the student must reply to at least 2 other classmates’ threads. The student must also reply to comments from classmates on his/her thread as needed. Threads must be 350 words minimum, while replies must be 100 words minimum. Discussion Board forums are class wide and not small group in this course. Late posts are not accepted as they are the digital equivalent of talking to an empty room after everyone has already gone home.

Research Paper

Without ones’ own understanding of the purpose of suffering, crisis responders cannot truly offer emotional and spiritual care in disasters and provide comfort and direction to others in their suffering and pain. The student must compile an original paper of 12 pages of body text, in current APA style that begins by explaining the student’s own personal theology of suffering. The student must use commentary and biblical references to support his/her position. In addition, the student must explain how they would consult with a congregation to set up a plan of preparation for pre-incidence disasters. Utilizing information presented in the textbooks as well as theoretical and practical elements from academic and Christian sources, the student must describe how they would foster resiliency in the pastor and the congregation. A minimum of 10 scholarly sources (books and journal articles) is required in addition to the textbooks (if the student chose to cite these). Grades will be assigned based on the quality of content, how well APA guidelines are adhered to, the richness of citations utilized, quality of expression, and biblical integration presented.

Exams (4)

There will be 4 exams over the 15 presentations. While viewing the presentations, the student will take notes on the content, which they will be able to use while completing the exams. The exams contain 20 multiple-choice and true/false questions and have a time limit of 30 minutes. The student may use his/her notes and texts, but as they are time limited, only by becoming familiar with the material in advance will he/she be able to complete them 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.