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What is Religious Trauma?

Religious Trauma Syndrome was coined by Dr. Marlene Winell (2011). Building on Dr. Winell's work, Religious Trauma Institute (RTI) and Reclamation Collective proposed a working definition of RT that works within the existing frameworks of PTSD and complex PTSD (C-PTSD) the organization has defined RT as:

 “the physical, emotional, or psychological response to religious beliefs, practices, or structures that is experienced by an individual as overwhelming or disruptive and has lasting adverse effects on a person’s physical, mental, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being” (2021).

Religious Trauma is a subset of Trauma, Complex Trauma, and PTSD. 

Trauma does not occur directly from an event, but how our body responds to that event. When the nervous system becomes overwhelmed, it goes into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn to survive the situation. 

Many institutions, such as religion, do not give individuals safe space to process their emotions, especially when their triggers are related to church doctrine.

When we are not able to release the pent up 'overwhelmed' energy, are forced in the situation to keep it inside, or do not have a safe place to cope and process the feelings: that is how you get trauma. 

North American
Research Collective

Religious Trauma

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Problem: lack of research and resources. 

Though terms such as 'spiritual abuse' have been present within academia for quite some time, the term 'religious trauma' is quite new. Up until now, academic studies have often attributed religion as having only positive effects on individuals. The conversation surrounding religious trauma is only just beginning, and scholarship and research must be forged to aid health practitioners, psychologists and counsellors to be able to help treat patients who are struggling with religious trauma. This is what NARC-RT hopes to do. 

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Meet the Founders

A collective of researchers desiring to bring light to the millions of individuals across religions who have experienced, and continue to experience religious trauma.
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Located in Michigan, US, Rebekah focuses on heteropatriarchal hegemony, intersectional/feminist psychology, and religious trauma.



Located in Ontario, Canada, Liv's research focuses on evangelicalism, purity culture, affect, and religious trauma.



Located in Minneapolis, US, Kai's focus is on LGTBQIA+ identities, social work, clinical mental health practices, and religious trauma.



Located in Los Angeles, US, Bryan's research focuses on the BIPOC community and religious trauma.

Dandelion Meadow

Internal Projects



Religious Trauma Literature Review


currently in progress

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