Trauma and traumatic loss affects individuals, their communities and the systems and structures that surround them. As spiritual caregivers, we endeavor to be helpful resources of recovery and healing for persons who have experienced trauma.
As a pastor, chaplain and spiritual director, I must acknowledge that the definition of what comprises “trauma” is relative to one’s personal experience. There are also times when individuals and/or communities are not even aware that there are embedded remnants of a trauma or traumatic loss that yet need healing. It becomes imperative that we, spiritual caregivers, know what to look for when encountering the unexpected responses linked to trauma while nurturing the spiritual aspects of the person’s identity and the theologies that influence our understanding of healing and wholeness.
The Certificate in Trauma and Spiritual Care (CTSC) at San Francisco Theological Seminary is designed for persons who serve those who have experienced trauma. Its courses broaden the reflection and support base for such caregivers, ministers, and professionals particularly around the spiritual aspects of caregiving. Included in the categories of professional and caregiver are board certified nurses, marriage and family therapists, emergency medical workers, and social workers who can take these courses for continuing education (CE) credits. In this way, the CTSC is one of the few programs that places theological students and health care professionals in a synergistic learning environment. The classroom, then, becomes a place of mutual learning and equally important, a place where mutual caregiving happens in the midst of those who have dedicated themselves to providing care for the traumatized.
There are four courses in the curriculum that are rotated in during a period of two years. Each course meets once a month for four months, usually Friday evening for 3 hours and all day Saturday. Courses can be taken in any order and cannot be duplicated.
Our current curriculum is as follows:
“God and Human Suffering” which deals with issues of theodicy—how do we make sense of evil in a world that is supposed to be under the care of the good God while providing pastoral care in relation to those who are suffering? What is the relationship between human suffering and the human spirit?
“Dynamics of Trauma” explores the basic dynamics of trauma from a variety of perspectives: sociological, psychological, psychiatric, neuroscience, relational, theological and spiritual. Additional topics include: the great variety and demographics of trauma, and the emerging field of traumatology, along with the spiritual and moral dimensions to trauma and the traumatized person, including the emerging concept of “moral injury.”
“Restorative Justice”, approaches trauma from the side—how to repair and restore the social web of the traumatized person and his/her systems. Special emphasis is placed on trauma and moral injury exploration and recovery, active listening/witnessing and storytelling in Restorative Justice circles as spiritual and healing practices.
“Collective Trauma, Collective Memory: Systemic Issues of Trauma” will continue the examination of systems that hold and perpetuate trauma in the form of oppression and racism and how those systems govern or shape our social relationships. Further discussion will focus on transformative thought processes/actions that can then lead to healing.
The certificate is set up so that professionals/ministers who wish to take only one course may do so. The fee per course is $750.
To learn more, visit the CTSC website here.
Rev. Ruth T West is a San Francisco Bay Area native. She is an ordained Presbyterian PC(USA) Teaching Elder who serves as Temporary Pastor of New Liberation Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and is also the Program Manager for the Programs in Christian Spirituality and Clinical Pastoral Education at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Ruth has an MBA, MDiv and Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction. She also serves on the Committee for Preparation in Ministry for the San Francisco Presbytery PC(USA) as well as the Presbytery Engagement Team. Ruth is a recent empty nester as her only child, Chiyako, is a freshman in college.