Trauma Pastoral Care
    Trauma Pastoral Care is defined by  specific practices of ministry and spiritual care of people.  It is an intervention model of pastoral care and counseling practiced by clergy in the midst of disaster and/or traumatically stressful experiences, and, in particular, where there are multiple or mass casualties.  It is an activity defined by its context, its practice, and its authority in terms of the role and function of clergy persons.  It is part of an affective-cognitive-spiritual adaptation theory of traumatic or psychic stress.  Trauma pastoral care is a development in the art and science of pastoral care designed to carry out an essential and highly significant mission under adverse condition. (Parlotz, 1985)  It is a special form of ministry of presence and a specialized form of pastoral counseling in times of catastrophe, war, or disaster with individuals who are often overwhelmed by these events.  These victims are confronted by (1) personal injury, (2) threat to life, physical, emotional, and spiritual integrity, and/or (3) threat to property.  As a spiritual intervention, trauma pastoral care has both religious and mental health implications.

     The clergy person is engaged in a specific role and function which is pastoral.   Pastoral events rest essentially in the administrative responsibility of a pastor for his or her parish or other structural unit under ecclesiastical or religious authority.  This is an accountability issue. (Patton, 1986)  This ministry includes activities of pastoral care and of pastoral counseling.   These integrate theology and the behavioral sciences, especially psychology.  Trauma pastoral care is a pastoral act and, therefore, is defined in terms of this pastoral accountability.  Trauma pastoral care is exercised by pastoral practitioners and clinical theologians through pastoral events.

     The practice of trauma pastoral care established contact with individuals (and groups) who have been traumatized by the experience of catastrophe.  It demonstrates support and care through ministry of presence.  It facilitates catharsis -- particularly focused on the immediate experience and, eventially, its significance to the individual including how the experience in integrated into the person's lived history and its effect on the individual's world view.  It helps activate the network of supportive services (including families, friends, supportive groups, and community).  Generally after these brief pastoral therapeutic intervention during the acute experience of the traumatic event and its immediate aftermath, there is closure with possibly referral for on-going pastoral care and support.  In part, this closure is necessitated because in the acute care environment, there are more persons in need of this intervention than clergy to provide it.  Thus, the provider of trauma pastoral care in the acute environment must move on to others in similar need of support.  Trauma pastoral care operates within the environment of the catastrophe.  The clergy person aggressively seeks opportunities for this ministry, going to those in need as a partner in the event and its effects.  Trauma pastoral care triage is necessary to help direct this ministry in the disaster environment.
From materials which are under Copyright 1994
Dr. Robert D. Parlotz
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