School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Jamie Clark


religious abuse, spiritual abuse, trauma, adult victims, sexual abuse, clergy-related abuse, #ChurchToo




This phenomenological study explored the impacts of religious/spiritual abuse (RSA) on women abused by Christian religious leaders in their adulthood, describing their treatment experiences and identifying effective elements of their healing processes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 women who had experienced RSA in adulthood. Four central research questions guided the interview protocol: 1) How do participants describe what led them to seek therapy? 2) How do participants describe their therapeutic/healing processes? 3) How do participants describe what they found helpful/not helpful or effective/ineffective in their treatment/healing processes? 4) How do participants describe factors influencing their treatment/healing processes? The interviews were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis (RTA) with 12 distinct themes identified that offer insight into the experience and healing of RSA. This study contributes to the current body of knowledge by providing an in-depth exploration of RSA experienced by women in their adulthood. Its findings emphasize the importance of addressing RSA and highlight the urgent need for awareness, prevention, and intervention efforts addressing RSA within Christian contexts. The factors identified as impacting the healing process offer valuable information for mental health professionals and others working with survivors of RSA.

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Psychology Commons