Inmates who participated in a Bible-based trauma healing ministry program showed enhanced emotional well-being and a significant decrease in the negative consequences of trauma, a recent study by the American Bible Society and Baylor University revealed.
For five-days, 349 inmates participated in trauma healing groups led by volunteers from the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry (GNJPM), a partner of American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Ministry. After three months, results showed a decrease in PTSD, improved emotional health, and a reported sense of God's purpose in life. Was the positive outcome a result of a Bible based program or a the attention given to program participants?
Wendy Pitts, LCSW-C, with Guiding Insight, LLC, believes the positive outcomes for the prisoners who were a part of the Baylor study is because leaders addressed the spiritual needs along with mental health needs. “Providers should always look at clients holistically,” says Pitts, “and this is particularly true for trauma clients. When someone suffers a trauma, it injures their spirit as well as their body and their psyche. Treatment that doesn't address all areas doesn't completely heal.”
Laura Howe, B.S.W., R.S.W., C.A.P.M. with Hope Made Strong, believes when Scripture and research affirmed strategies, are offered in a hopeful and inclusive environment, healing and transformation are the results. Howe explains, “Effective treatment for trauma mirrors the message of the gospel: discovering yourself as a treasured gift with strengths, finding belonging and acceptance, and pursuing purpose. It’s no wonder that inmates who participated in a trauma healing group study showed enhanced emotional well-being. What research shows is a best-practice for the treatment of trauma has long been played out in the Bible.” In addition to the message of the gospel, there are also reliable stories of people and struggles they’ve experienced. "The Bible provides situations of healing and forgiveness that inmates can resonate with,“ added Amanda Levison M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT, with the Neurofeedback & Counseling Center of Pennsylvania.
Psychologist Bruce Thiessen worked in prisons and parole for over twenty years. He believes a “psychology based on secular humanism, does not acknowledge, nor does it draw upon the power of prayer, faith, or divine intervention, as legitimate paths to healing." He adds, "Trauma can be experienced as a dark cloud that will not let divine light enter the picture, but once trauma is recognized as real, and legitimate, and the person experiencing the trauma feels validated, and supported, the Bible can offer a sense of purpose and meaning that furthers the healing process and restores, not only the psyche, but the soul.”
Kate Fraiser is a Parent Coach for Connect Point Moms and the director of early childhood ministries at her church. She points to existing research on the benefits of spiritual practices. “The power of prayer and meditation has been well-documented to work in helping people be released from negative thoughts and behavior patterns,” said Fraiser . “While I believe that this is because God is making Himself known to us when we pray to Him, there simply are undeniable psychological and physiological benefits of mindfulness practices, which include prayer.”
Fraiser adds, “We are also created as relational beings. Therefore, when hurt in and by relationships, we need to be healed in and through relationships. Those who participated in this program had opportunities to be healed through relationships: relationship with God and relationship with others.”
Thiessen summarizes by emphasizing the role of faith in healing. “Without it, and the openness to pursue divine intervention as a path to healing; psychology and psychotherapeutic interventions tend to fall short. A program that is both validating of the experience of traumatized human beings, and biblical, is ideal, and it should come as no surprise that it would lead to positive outcomes.”