What are Religious Trauma & Faith Transitions?
Religious trauma refers to traumatic experiences within a religious or spiritual context. It can result from specific events, such as being dismissed after revealing abuse by a religious member. Alternatively, continuous exposure to harmful religious messages, such as about your identity, can also lead to trauma, impacting your mental health and self-perception.
A faith transition is the re-evaluation of religious beliefs, often leading to a change or evolution of your faith identity. It can be accompanied by a faith crisis, which refers to the emotional distress you experience when questioning beliefs you once considered absolute truths. Everyone's journey is distinct; some leave their religion, while others adapt their beliefs. This transition can impact your sense of purpose, emotional well-being, and social relationships.
How are People Impacted?
Religious trauma affects people in many different ways. You might experience:
Excessive guilt and shame
Distrust toward self and others
Lack of self-acceptance (e.g., LGBTQ+ issues)
Difficulties making decisions
Difficulties setting boundaries
Sexual shame and related concerns
Healing from religious trauma requires time and understanding. While certain traumatic experiences, like discrimination based on race, gender, or sexuality, aren't exclusive to religion, the belief that one's church doctrines are divinely inspired can exacerbate the trauma's impact. To delve into how religious trauma symptoms emerge, consider these scenarios:
Imagine being taught throughout your life that, because of your skin color, gender, or sexual orientation, you're deemed less worthy of church fellowship and divine affection. Visualize a community asserting that gender roles are a "divine design", limiting your aspirations. What if you were raised believing your sole purpose was parenthood, but that path felt unfulfilling or remained elusive? Think of the pain of being incessantly reminded of your supposed inadequacies, or that commonplace human experiences, like sexuality, are sources of profound shame.
Now, consider the betrayal of reporting abuse to faith leaders, only to be discredited while your abuser is being shielded. Envision being labeled a liar for revealing abuse or, worse yet, being made to believe you "deserved" such treatment due to perceived transgressions in your deity's eyes.
These are only some examples of the traumatic experiences that can unfold within religious settings. Many, perhaps including you and certainly myself, have experienced them.
Faith transitions and faith crises impact individuals emotionally and socially. Among the most common emotional struggles you might face are:
Grief and loss
Difficulty focusing or concentrating
Decreased motivation or energy
Social withdrawal or isolation
Loss of identity or sense of self
Lack of purpose or direction
Lack of inhibition or boundaries
Anger towards yourself, others, or your religion
Anxiety and worry
Depression and low mood
Facing these emotions can be overwhelming, and it's essential to understand that healing is a process that takes time. Beyond the emotional challenges, your faith transition may also introduce social difficulties. You might face ostracization from family or friends, experience jeopardized job opportunities, or navigate strained relationships with partners and children. The social implications of leaving a faith are profound and largely hinge on your unique circumstances.
The trajectory and pace of your faith transition can dictate the depth of its impact. If your transition is gradual, it might provide you with more time to process emotions. Conversely, a swift shift could intensify your experiences.
While your faith crisis journey can feel daunting, especially as you work to unlearn deeply ingrained beliefs, it's encouraging to know that the vast majority of people, in the end, find a renewed sense of purpose, joy, and freedom, enhanced by newfound confidence and authenticity.
How can Therapy with Me Help You?
Much of my faith transition and religious trauma work involves clients from an LDS/Mormon background, a background I share. I also have experience assisting individuals from Christian and Muslim faiths. Having navigated and healed from my own faith transition and religious trauma, I understand the importance of a safe space to heal, contemplate profound questions, and make decisions in harmony with your authentic self. With my specialized training and research in human relationships, I'm well-equipped to help you navigate any relational challenges that may emerge, whether they involve family, friends, or partners, or addressing concerns at work stemming from your faith transition or trauma.
As a secular therapist, my emphasis lies in utilizing evidence-based strategies to facilitate healing and to help you lead a fulfilling life. Often, clients come to me after previous therapists have advised either greater religious immersion or staunch avoidance of all religious practices as remedies. Such guidance is not only unprofessional but also unethical. In my commitment to ethical therapy, I neither advocate for nor against religion; my primary concern is your mental health and well-being, no matter where your journey leads. Many of my clients express relief at having finally found a therapist who grasps their religious background and doesn't push them in any specific religious direction, neither away from nor toward religion. My goal is to help you find YOUR path.
If you want to begin your healing journey, call/text or email me today to get started. You can also schedule a free 15 minute consult.
If you're reading this, you are likely navigating a faith transition or grappling with the effects of religious trauma. Such experiences can profoundly disrupt your life, prompting deep questioning of beliefs and values you once held dear. I'm a psychologist specializing in supporting adults through the mental, emotional, and relational challenges associated with religious trauma and faith transitions or faith crises.
Whether you're trying to heal from harmful religious messaging, searching for renewed purpose, questioning moral standards, or addressing specific traumatic religious experiences, I'm here to help. My extensive expertise encompasses aiding adults in confronting issues arising from their current or past religious identity. This includes perfectionism, anxiety, excessive guilt, LGBTQ+ concerns, existential dilemmas, boundary-setting difficulties, relationship challenges, and sexual shame.
In therapy, my approach is both evidence-based and secular. I assure you, I won't impose beliefs or perpetuate harmful power dynamics that may have contributed to your experiences. Instead, I'll collaborate with you to identify and address the sources of your distress, helping you develop the skills and tools you need to move forward.