School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Courtney Evans-Thompson


sexual abuse by clergy, institutional betrayal, betrayal trauma, complex trauma, servant leadership, psychoeducation


Counseling | Education


Survivors of sexual abuse by religious leaders experience unique forms of trauma demanding unique forms of treatment. Using a nonequivalent control group pretest posttest design, this study examined the effectiveness of one such treatment. The Abuse, Trauma, and Jesus workshop was designed to impart psychoeducation, coping tools, and support to survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. The treatment group added a servant leadership psychoeducation element. Before and after the intervention the participants completed the Primary Care PTSD Screen and the Attachment to God (ATG) Inventory. The research questions asked whether trauma symptoms and avoidant/anxious styles of God attachment would be reduced after the workshop, and whether the treatment group effect would be greater. Paired sample t-tests were used to compare pre and posttest measures for both control and treatment groups. A difference-in-differences analysis was used to identify any different effect in the treatment group. Although none of the outcomes were statistically significant, there was a small but consistent reduction in anxious and avoidant styles of God attachment in the control group. It is believed that a combination of features of the workshop, including therapeutic recapitulation, myth-busting, emotional disclosure, social support, and tool-sharing, may have helped reduce avoidant and anxious God attachment styles. More research needs to be done to identify how to meet the unique therapeutic needs of survivors.