School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Scott D. Edgar


Vicarious Trauma, Stress, Burnout, Church Leaders, Priests, Pastors, Clergy, Deacons, Florida, Oviedo, Seminole County


Counseling | Education


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand and explore the need to help church leaders who are experiencing stress. Christian clergies are classified as priests, pastors, ministers, chaplains, and deacons who interact with the congregation by identifying the Bible Scriptures. Church leaders follow the teachings of the divine and are pulled from many angles. It is up to the congregation to help themselves and church leaders to relieve this stress to avoid vicarious trauma. This study digs deep to decipher if church leaders in Catholicism and Baptist teaching are aware of the stress they acquire from their various interactions with congregants. The theory that guided this study was founded on Martin Heidegger’s hermeneutical circle framework which focuses on digging deep while viewing its parts. Assisting with the digging ideology, the attachment theory, by John Bowlby supported this research to understand the relationship that has been formed. This qualitative study consisted of ten interviews to identify and describe Church Leaders’ experiences with vicarious trauma from two churches in Oviedo Florida. The data is transcribed and placed in themes and codes. The research questions of the study were: (a) how do church leaders in Oviedo, Florida describe their experience with vicarious trauma; (b) how do church leaders describe the connection between vicarious trauma and stress and burnout; (c) how do church leaders describe the way they cope with vicarious trauma; (d) how do church leaders describe the support they receive to deal with vicarious trauma? The primary source of data collection consisted of Semi-structured, open-ended questions with individual participants. Once the data analysis was completed themes were able to be discovered. The themes starting from the bottom are, (a) obedience (b) self-care (c) community first aid (d) handling vicarious trauma and, (e) first responder. Keywords: Vicarious Trauma, Stress, Burnout, Church Leaders