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The Role of Religion and Spirituality in the Resilience and Healing of African Americans in Times of Trauma. Nancy Boyd-Franklin, Ph.D. Rutgers University Email: Religious Diversity Among African Americans. Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Methodist

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The Role of Religion and Spirituality in the Resilience and Healing of African Americans in Times of Trauma

Nancy Boyd-Franklin, Ph.D.

Rutgers University


religious diversity among african americans
Religious Diversity Among African Americans
  • Baptist,
  • African Methodist Episcopal (AME)
  • Methodist
  • Episcopalian
  • Catholic
  • Church of God in Christ
  • Seventh Day Adventist
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses
other religious groups
Other Religious Groups
  • Nation of Islam
  • Sunni Muslim
  • Other Muslim Groups
  • African Religions
religion and spirituality
Religion and Spirituality
  • Diversity of Experiences
  • Do not assume a religious affiliation or belief system
  • The importance of the “Church Family”
  • The difference between religion and spirituality
  • ROLE OF BLACK CHURCHES IN Trauma RESPONSE (will be discussed below).
  • (Boyd-Franklin, 2003)
caution do not assume religious involvement
Caution: Do not Assume Religious Involvement
  • Many African Americans are not Church Involved
  • Adolescents are often in rebellion against their parents’ beliefs
  • Spirituality vs. Religion
  • Many African Americans have a deep spirituality (i.e. belief in God)
  • Others may not be spiritual or religious

(Boyd-Franklin, 2003)

  • Survival Mechanism for African Americans
  • A way to address and cope with the psychological pain of racism
  • African Belief system: The psyche and the spirit are one.

(Boyd-Franklin, 2003)

church family
Church Family
  • “Church Home”
  • Minister, Minister’s Wife
  • Deacons, Deaconesses
  • Sunday School
  • Close Members of the Congregation
  • Day Care & Schools
  • Benevolent Fund
  • Help & Support in times of trauma
church family support
Church Family Support

* Many African American “Church Families” also have extended family blood ties

  • Visiting the Sick and Homebound
  • The Prayer List
  • Elder “Prayer Warriors”
  • Transportation to Services
  • Senior Activities
  • Emotional, Spiritual and Instrumental support
  • Respite Care
resilience of african americans in the face of disaster trauma racism
Resilience of African Americans in the Face of Disaster, Trauma & Racism
  • Historic resilience of Black People
  • Survival Skills
  • “This is not our first disaster and it won’t be our last.”
  • Strengths
  • How have you overcome traumatic experiences in the past?
  • How have you dealt with racism in the past?
  • Role of Religion and Spirituality

(Boyd-Franklin, 2008; Boyd-Franklin,2009)

spirituality coping with trauma
Spirituality: Coping with Trauma
  • Importance in African American families
  • Ask about spiritual beliefs
  • Help to cope with trauma and loss
  • Instilling a sense of hope
  • Spiritual resilience

(Boyd-Franklin, 2008; Boyd-Franklin, 2009)

issues of death dying and traumatic loss for african americans
Issues of Death, Dying and Traumatic Loss for African Americans
  • Painful History of Loss
  • Traumatic Loss and Sudden Death
  • Violence in so many communities
  • Spirituality as a comfort
  • Healing
  • Support from the “Church Family”
role of the funeral in healing from loss trauma
Role of the Funeral in Healing from Loss &Trauma
  • The Funeral has a very central role in African American culture
  • Very traumatic after Katrina that survivors could not bury their dead
  • Highly emotional service
  • Celebration of the Life
  • “Homegoing” Service

(Boyd-Franklin, 2009)

cultural insensitivity regarding issues of death and the funeral
Cultural Insensitivity Regarding Issues of Death and the Funeral
  • After Hurricane Katrina, many first responders, including mental health responders, did not understand the importance of respect for the dead & the funeral in African American families.
  • “Ignore the dead; we want the living” – insensitive messages

(Dass-Brailsford, 2006)

therapeutic benefits of a memorial service
Therapeutic Benefits of a Memorial Service
  • There are circumstances where a body is never recovered
  • For some African American families, a memorial service can be very therapeutic
  • Family therapy sessions- Plan the Memorial
  • Family and friends have an opportunity to share their memories of the deceased
  • Postpone the funeral or memorial service sometimes for a week or more in order for the extended family members to arrive
spirituality coping with trauma15
Spirituality: Coping with Trauma
  • Importance in African American families
  • Ask about spiritual beliefs
  • Helps to cope with trauma and loss
  • Use of spiritual metaphors
  • Instilling a sense of hope
  • Spiritual resilience
core beliefs for overcoming adversity
Core Beliefs for Overcoming Adversity
  • “I’m so glad trouble don’t last always” (Gospel song)
  • “It looks bad right now, but remember, this too shall pass.”
resilience themes in hymns and spirituals
Resilience Themes in Hymns and Spirituals
  • “There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”(Hymn).
  • “I shall not, I shall not be moved, Just like a tree, planted by the waters, I shall not be moved.”
  • “After you’ve done all you can, you just stand and let God see you through” (Gospel song).
  • “Walk together children, don’t get weary;There’s a great camp meeting in the Promised Land
  • “Precious Lord, take my hand”
  • “Amazing Grace” (Mitchell & Lewter, 1986)
biblical passages for times of trouble
Biblical Passages for Times of Trouble
  • “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
  • “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” (Psalm 23)
  • “Weeping may endure for a night , but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5)
resilience spiritual messages after trauma
Resilience & Spiritual Messages after Trauma
  • God will see you through
  • Thus far by faith
  • African Americans are not strangers to hardship, trauma and disaster
  • Perseverance
  • Healing
  • Forgiveness
  • Faith and Hope
reaching out to black churches
Reaching Out to Black Churches
  • Importance of establishing relationships with Black churches in the community prior to a disaster
  • Identify African Americans, who can introduce you to their pastors and their church families
mental health partnerships with black churches during times of trauma
Mental Health Partnerships with Black Churches During Times of Trauma
  • Black Churches are a natural base for Mental Health interventions in the African American community
  • Connections should be made prior to the disaster
  • Trust in the Community
  • Minimize fear and suspicion
  • Familiar “Church home” for children, adults and families
houston example after katrina
Houston Example After Katrina
  • African American Psychologist went to Houston to the Astrodome after Katrina
  • Thousands of people in this massive shelter
  • Red Cross responders overwhelmed
  • Through his minister contacted local Black Church
  • Ministers & Church Family Members came
  • Choir sang-lifted the spirit of everyone
black churches as relocation resources
Black Churches as Relocation Resources
  • Help families find Black church families of the same denomination in the new location
  • Culturally and spiritually familiar surroundings during a disruptive period
  • Many church families have “adopted” families

(Boyd-Franklin, 2009)

role of religion and spirituality in healing trauma
Role of Religion and Spirituality in Healing Trauma
  • Faith, hope and charity
  • The power of prayer
  • Some African Americans may ask you to pray with them during times of disaster, death, trauma and loss
  • Follow the client and family’s lead

(Boyd-Franklin, 2009)

strength based african american spiritual beliefs
Strength-Based African American Spiritual Beliefs
  • “God is good all the time”
  • “God will hold your hand as you run this race.”
  • “God is in charge.”
  • “God can do anything but fail”

Mitchell and Lewter, 1986

testimony therapy
Testimony Therapy
  • Dr. Makungu Akinyela
  • Oral tradition
  • Church Tradition of giving “Testimony”
  • “We shall overcome”
  • Sharing Triumph over Adversity
  • “God saw me through.”
  • Validate: “You have a very powerful testimony. Share it with others.”
  • Overcoming disasters, trauma and racism

(Akinyela, 2007; Boyd-Franklin, 2009)

normalize feelings
Normalize Feelings
  • African Americans have a cultural need to “be strong”
  • Tears may be considered weakness
  • Reframe as “tears of strength” or “tears of love” or “tears of strength and love”
  • Normalize feelings
  • “You are a survivor”
testimony of triumphs over past disasters traumas and racism
Testimony of Triumphs Over Past Disasters, Traumas and Racism
  • Ask about experiences in the past where the person has overcome trauma, extreme loss, or racism
  • Explore the factors that helped the person to overcome
  • Validate that those strengths are within the person
spirituality and church support in healing community trauma
Spirituality and Church Support in Healing Community Trauma
  • Important support system in times of disaster
  • Healing Community Trauma
  • Even for those who are not religious, Black churches are often a focus point in communities
  • For activism, advocacy
  • Respected Leadership in Times of Trouble
healing community trauma case example
Healing Community Trauma: Case Example
  • Random violence: shooting of 17 year old African American young man.
  • “Good Kid”
  • Victim of Gang Violence
  • Rushed to hospital
  • Mother called her minister
  • Prayed with her as her son died
  • Mother begged sons’ friends to “stop the violence” & not retaliate
partnership between church and mental health
Partnership between Church and Mental Health
  • Crisis Counseling: Minister met with school officials and mental health providers to intervene in the community & the school
  • Funeral: very emotional
  • Minister at altar call asked all the young people to come forward & pledge to stop the violence
  • Turn in Weapons
further community healing
Further Community Healing
  • Minister called for Gang Summit
  • Worked with Mental Health Providers to offer family therapy to mother and other relatives
  • Teacher at school and youth minister helped the youth to develop a memorial service and video remembrance
mother contributes to community healing
Mother contributes to community healing
  • Gang Summit
  • V Free (Stop the Violence) walk
  • Foundation and scholarship through Church in son’s name
  • Ministry to other families affected by community violence
  • Mental Health Providers actively involved in this partnership
mental health providers
Mental Health Providers
  • Don’t be alone
  • Reach out to other supports in the community
  • Try to have a member of the African American community introduce you to key community leaders
  • Including Ministers
  • Don’t Wait for a Disaster or Trauma
  • Build Connections with Black Churches & Community Organizations now