Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Social Work (M.S.W.)

Degree Program

School of Social Work

First Advisor

Cray Mulder

Second Advisor

Patty Stow Bolea

Third Advisor

Joshua Bishop

Academic Year



This qualitative study examines the ways in which faith leaders within the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) work with parishioners who have experienced an interpersonal trauma and are seeking religious support. For the purposes of this study, interpersonal trauma will include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse experienced as a child or adult, childhood neglect, and/or witnessing violence as an adult or a child. The researcher interviewed 14 Pastors at CRCs in Kent and Ottawa Counties in the state of Michigan to learn more about their experiences in working with survivors of interpersonal trauma. Common findings indicate that pastors assist survivors of interpersonal trauma by listening and being present with them through their journey, praying with them, and applying scripture to address their theological questions and concerns. The study participants spoke of helping survivors build connections, involving outside sources or providing outside referrals in order to ensure safety and help individuals to work through their experience of trauma in a mental health capacity. The implications of this study propose ways in which individuals in both the social work and pastoral professions may work together to better support survivors of interpersonal trauma. Social workers should seek to build relationships with local churches in order to provide education around trauma-informed approaches. Pastors should be open to these relationships with social workers and learning how to support parishioners and building connections with counselors who can provide evidence-based mental health interventions for trauma survivors within their churches.