Religious, spiritual, and exceptional experiences in trauma treatment: A clinical training model

Michelle E. Bennet (1999)

Since 1992, the American Psychology Association has recognized the importance of religion, spiritual, and cultural experiences and beliefs in ethical guidelines for clinical treatment. In 1994, the intersection of religious, spiritual, exceptional experiences and dissociation was recognized in the DSM-IV. However, professional literature describing the convergence of these phenomenon in treatment is relatively unknown. In addition, there is no literature which specifically addresses training for differential decision making and interventions regarding these areas in the treatment of trauma survivors. This study reviews the empirical studies and clinical literature describing the phenomenology and context of the religious, spiritual and exceptional (R/S/E) experiences and their interaction in the treatment of trauma and dissociation. The author then presents a conceptual training model for mental health professionals. This training model will: (1) review what is known from empirical studies and clinical literature; (2) present and compare current clinical theories and conceptualizations about the overlap in these areas; (3) discuss assessment and differential diagnosis; (4) discuss decision making, specific interventions, and the evaluation of these interventions in treatment; (5) outline theoretical controversies in the field; and (6) consider the impact of the demands of trauma treatment the impact of controversies about R/S/E issues and experiences on the professional and personal life of the clinician. A model for evaluation of the training is described, and directions for further research and development are recommended.