School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Jason Gary Wright


familial trauma, complementary therapies, pastoral counseling, attachment trauma, transpersonal psychology, Christian spirituality, contemplative neuroscience


Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Adult survivors of familial trauma present with many seemingly unrelated psychiatric and relational issues well into adulthood. Developmental and familial trauma is emerging in the research as a subset of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). This specific type of trauma is rooted in attachment and family systems theory. Issues such as divorce, parental substance abuse, mental illness, enmeshment, parentification, abandonment, and abuse get passed down intergenerationally in vicious cycles until someone finds the courage to heal. Pastoral counselors are uniquely equipped to lead the third wave of cognitive-behavioral therapies proving effective in treating complex trauma includes mindfulness and complementary therapies (CTs) given advances in understanding contemplative neuroscience and neurotheology. Trauma necessitates a top-down (talk therapy) and bottom-up (somatic therapy) approach to healing. These complexities pose important theological questions for pastors regarding the appropriateness of CTs for evangelical Christians. Furthermore, a dichotomy exists between the medical and ministry worlds. CTs exist in the spiritual tension between medicine and ministry. Moreover, CT practitioners fall into the same legal scope of practice categories as Christian lay ministers. A grounded theory of Christian-adaptable CTs for ministering to family trauma would streamline treatment approaches. It would also make empirical training accessible to clients, congregants, and pastoral counselors and CT practitioners. The study utilized meta-synthesis to survey journal articles (N = 500) using Boolean operators to identify an intersection between three topics: Christian ministry and pastoral counseling, complex relational and family trauma, and complementary and alternative medicine. Thirty-five studies (N = 35) were the subject of a meta-synthesis. Meta-synthesis attempts to develop a new theory by thematic analysis.