Meet the Researchers
I'm a founder of NARC-RT. My research interests include sex and religion, cultural hegemony in institutions, health equity, and religious trauma (Vol. 13) broadly with an intersectional feminist lens. I will matriculate into the Clinical Psychology PhD program at Bowling Green State University in Fall of 2023, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Arts from Northeastern Illinois University summa cum laude with honors in Psych and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. I am currently working as an independent contractor/Research Assistant for the Global Feminisms Project at University of Michigan. I also recently completed a position as a Senior Research Fellow for ChicagoCHEC (Cancer Health Equity Collaborative) as well as a position as a RA consultant for the Chicago Congregations Project at the University of Notre Dame.
While I feel like I have so much to celebrate now, it was definitely not an easy journey. When I was 19, I had just finished my first year of college in Missouri, where I grew up, as a vocal performance major. As per my religious upbringing, I was fixated on being a virgin, getting married and performing my role as a good Christian girl (read: conservative and abstinent before marriage). I felt like I was never going to fit that role, and to be honest, I didn’t want to. In the summer of 2013, I came to Chicago to visit the jazz scene with a suitcase, a guitar, and $300 to my name. I lived in Chicago for just under ten years before recently moving to Michigan with my boo. I continually struggle with religious trauma, in particular I fear death from being raised to believe if I did not maintain my faith that I'd go to hell. Also, like many who grew up in purity culture, I still sometimes feel dirty for being a sexual being.
BUT, I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been because I left the evangelical stereotypes that were being forced onto me. I now identify as a queer femme athiest.
I am a founder of NARC-RT as well as a queer scholar with a Master's in Religious Studies from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. I study the history and affect of evangelical purity culture, as well as systemic intersectional religious trauma. My personal experience living with severe scoliosis and fibromyalgia has me interested in the intersection of religious trauma, disability, and chronic illness.
Beginning in 2015, I began to get unexplainable bizarre symptoms. I was heavily involved in a baptist church, various Christian mission organizations, and my reformed evangelical univeristy. Due to various religious traumas I experienced (sexual assault, family infidelity, spiritual abuse, being perceived as 'a jezebel', dissociation from my body, intuition and disability, and homophobia and sexist rhetorics), I began to realize that many of my symptoms would occur when I engaged in, or even just thought about my faith. My symptoms worsened to the point where I struggled to go into church without feeling unbearable dread and flu-like symptoms. My body was saying no and for my health I had to listen. I stopped attending church and it turned out to be one of the best things for me. There is emergent research demonstrating that the stress and repression we experience in our environments, such as religious settings, lead to chronic illnesses. Religious Trauma can have far reaching impacts. Trust that body of yours.
Bryan M. Montano-Maceda, ACSW, MSW (he/him/his) is a NARC-RT founder and first-generation lighter skin Indigenous-Latino (Quechua people of Bolivia) that is dedicated to uplifting BIPOC voices and communities through advocacy in all areas of his life. Bryan is a culturally inclusive and holistic social worker, community organizer, program evaluator, public speaker, researcher, and consultant in Los Angeles.
I’m a founder of NARC-RT and an admitted MSW student at the University of Minnesota pursuing clinical licensure with the intention of serving those identifying as LGBTQIA+ and those impacted by religious trauma. My undergrad was focused on psychology and journalism, and I currently work in social services. Accessibility, transparency, and Black Feminist theory are at the forefront of my focus in approaching research. As a nonbinary lesbian raised in conservative evangelical doctrines, who married at 21 and then came out and divorced 18 months later, religious trauma is personal. I remember being told that I am not worthy of respect because of my gender and sexual identity; that being assigned female at birth means my purpose and existence is to serve men; that post-secondary education is a waste, as my purpose is to simply have children and cook; that despite my overflowing GPA, I was problematic because of my eyeliner and tight jeans; that being a lesbian made me an abomination; that my gender is shameful; that virginity was of the utmost importance; and that my happiness did not matter, as long as I had faith. But, to save myself, I’ve chosen happiness. I hope you can too.
Alyan joins NARC-RT as a research collaborator, and is a Psychology and Ethnic Studies double Major at UC Davis. He aims to uplift his community & collegiate space of folx of color and different marginalized communities through advocacies of hands on, interpersonal work. He is a creative individual who greatly enjoys visual media tasks and communications work. His aspiration is to further increase the scholarship being done to research the topics of queer, Filipinx identity formation and the destigmatization of mental health in Asian migrant households.
A. joins NARC-RT as a research collaborator. They are a visual artist as well as a published poet, statistician, and freelance editor. A. lived in several towns in Missouri growing up, and had the unique experience of being the child of a pastor. Although their father had more progressive views than most churches, A. still had a great deal of exposure to fundamentalist church culture that is prevalent in Missouri. Moving forward, A. aims to elevate research on religious trauma with a particular focus on the queer experience.
Alejandra joins NARC-RT as a research collaborator. Alejandra is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT) from Southern California, currently working with Latinx families and children ranging from ages 6-15 in the Los Angeles area. During her time as a Marriage and Family Therapist Trainee, Alejandra was fortunate to be introduced to community-based health in which she provided individual and family therapy to predominately Spanish-speaking, undocumented, low-income, uninsured women.
Prior to her traineeship, she had the opportunity to work as an ABA behavioral therapist for kids on the Autism Spectrum. Alejandra also worked as a graduate assistant part-time at California State University Fullerton where she received her Masters in Clinical Psychology. Prior to graduate school, Alejandra took a gap year and worked as a residential counselor for adults with Schizophrenia and other related mental health diagnoses. Alejandra received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology and minor in LGBTQ Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara.
Alejandra recently had the privilege to travel to Portland, Oregon for the Western Psychological Association Convention 2022 to present her thesis research on Spirituality on the Trans and Gender Diverse community. Alejandra’s goal is to continue her work as a therapist, serving as a bilingual therapist for the Latinx and LBGBTQAI+ community and explore more way to contribute to the growing body of religious-based trauma work and research.
Heidi joins NARC-RT as a research collaborator. Heidi is a doctoral candidate from the University of North Texas Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program, currently in the APPIC match process, and will be completing her doctoral internship Fall 2023 - Spring 2024. Heidi is currently works both in community mental health setting and college counseling in Dallas, Texas. Heidi’s research has focused on attachment theory and religion and spirituality. Currently, Heidi is focusing her attention on how religious and spiritual trauma and abuse impact various forms of attachment (e.g., adult attachment; attachment to higher power/God).
Additionally, I would like to invite you to participate in my current research study titled: A Study of Religious/Spiritual Experiences and Attachment to God. This study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at UNT.
The purpose of this study is to explore how religious/spiritual experiences such as religious/spiritual abuse and trauma might impact one’s mental health and views of God/Higher power. More specifically, this study aims to broaden the literature on religion/spirituality by exploring how negative religious/spiritual experiences might impact one’s mental health, how one views themselves in relation to God/Higher Power, and how one chooses to identify religious/spiritually. You are eligible to participate if you are 18 years or older and have a past or current religious /spiritual identity.
The survey is online and will take approximately 60 minutes to complete. You may receive compensation for your participation. You may access the survey via the link here: https://unt.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5nI8ZstbF3n68Xs
Feel free to share the link to this study if you know anyone who is qualified or may be interested in participating.
If you want more information or have any questions, please contact me at HeidiEllis@my.unt.edu or my supervisor and principal investigator Dr. Joshua Hook at Joshua.Hook@unt.edu. Thank you for your time!