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Religion and spirituality

Since it may have been directly tied to the cause of their suffering, religion can bring up pain and other strong reactions, such as anger and disgust, in many childhood-trauma survivors. At the same time, some survivors find healing and fulfillment by embracing their own spiritual journey. 

Children’s innate sense of wonder is affected by their concrete experience of their caregivers, whom they experienced as all-powerful. When caregivers use religious authority to legitimize behaviors that children know in their bodies to be hurtful, the resulting feelings of shame and betrayal can be profound, and the child’s capacity for a healthy spiritual practice can be poisoned.

As a healing professional, I am committed to respecting my clients’ self-determination and to empowering them in their own healing path, whether or not they want to bring their experience of religion or spirituality into the conversation. If they do, my personal and professional background position me well to help them navigate those issues. 

Spirituality has been important in my life, and my own ability to work through anger at God over my childhood trauma sensitizes me to just how challenging issues of religion and spirituality can be for survivors. 

Robust professional background and skills equip me to support childhood-trauma survivors regarding religion and spirituality, whether they want to address how religion was part of their trauma or to explore how to incorporate spirituality in their healing—or both.


My background and skills include:

  • Earning advanced degrees in religion and spirituality (Master of Divinity, University of Santa Clara; Doctor of Theology, Harvard University). 

  • Working for three decades as a spiritual counselor supporting trauma survivors in their healing journeys and helping them gain freedom from the toxic effects of religion. 

  • Publishing multiple academic articles and books using trauma as a lens to interpret biblical texts.

  • Teaching about how to address spirituality and trauma within psychological practice in a graduate course for mental health professionals at Boston College.

  • Teaching about trauma in the context of religion in undergraduate courses at St. Mary’s University (San Antonio) and College of the Holy Cross, and in graduate ministry courses at Boston College.

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