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

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 09/05/2023

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.

For information regarding prerequisites for this course, please refer to the Academic Course Catalog.


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.

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.

Discussions (4)

The discussions 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. Discussions are class wide and not small group in this course. Late posts follow the syllabus guidelines.

Research Paper Assignment

Without your 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. Your own understanding of the biblical teaching on the topic of suffering is your “theology” of suffering. Your theology of suffering not only informs how you personally view suffering in God’s economy but will guide how you respond to victims of suffering, offer them encouragement, and seek to meet their immediate physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Your theology of suffering also informs how you would guide a church as it anticipates disasters and seeks to foster resilience in the church’s leadership, who bear primary responsibilities in the crisis response.

Review the specific instructions for this assignment. The paper will be written using current APA standards. 

Quizzes (4)

There will be 4 quizzes 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 quizzes 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 quiz is opened and multiple attempts are not allowed. The questions are selected at random, so each quiz will vary in its content.