Religion, Spirituality and Faith in the Care of Torture Survivors: Part I

This webinar, from April 29, 2009, features Captain John Tuskan. This is the first in a three-part series on spirituality.

This webinar is part of the National Capacity Building (NCB) webinar series. NCB is a project of the Center for Victims of Torture.


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Wednesday, 29 April 2009


In this first webinar of a three-part series on the place of religion in the care of trauma survivors, John Tuskan, co-author of The Spiritual Dimensions of Trauma Healing, focuses on definitions and concepts surrounding spirituality and faith. By outlining the distinctions that separate these realms of internal identity and theological understanding, Tuskan is able to fluidly move the discussion forward into identifying major conclusions from research on religion, health, and mental health and examining the role of religion in response to traumatic stress. Parts II and III of this series will in turn bring further case studies and research into the conversation.

It was while serving in the army that Tuskan first noticed the prominent role religion plays in helping survivors of trauma overcome otherwise debilitating stress. “I saw this in both men who experienced trauma in combat as well as in prisons,” Tuskan says. “In almost 70 percent of all trauma cases, religion was essential for healing.” These observations later inspired Tuskan to consider what role spirituality might play in the recovery process for victims of torture. Tuskan contributes these findings to the present discussion, introducing them alongside research on the same topic stemming from fields such as psychology and neurology. By outfitting listeners with the most recent findings on the role of religion in trauma recovery, Tuskan aims to lay the groundwork of understanding needed for parts II and III in this series.

In addition to covering the most recent research in the field, Tuskan also outlines the skills counselors need to remain attentive to religious dimensions of a patient’s experience and respond to ultimate questions. He finds that allowing the patient to be the guide and teacher in these conversations often encourages a sense of self-discovery and confidence. According to Tuskan, by working with a patient to understand the personal, familial, and societal factors that shape their world, a counselor can help victims of trauma feel a sense of control, empowerment, and hope.  “In so many cases, religion is the core element that assists survival,” Tuskan notes, “Even when everything else has been stripped away.”


The following websites were referenced in this presentation:
Beliefnet is an independent spiritual website that contains information on many faith traditions, discussion groups, and other aspects of spirituality.  It is not affiliated with any spiritual organization or movement.
Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University
Program for Religion/ Spirituality and Mental Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

Other items of interest

McKinney, Marcus M. "Treatment of survivors of torture: Spiritual domain" TORTURE. Volume 21, No. 1 (2011). (Link is to full article PDF on IRCT site.)

PTSD Treatment Designed Specifically For Monks
30 min 13 sec

Fresh Air from WHYY, March 26, 2009 • Dr. Michael Grodin discusses his experiences treating Tibetan monks who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Many of the monks were imprisoned or tortured because of their resistance to the Chinese presence in Tibet, and now some of them experience "flashbacks" while meditating.

Grodin hypothesizes that meditation may reduce the brain's ability to inhibit unpleasant thoughts and memories. His treatment combines elements of Western and Tibetan medicine and therapy. Grodin wrote about his findings in the March issue of Mental Health, Religion, and Culture.

A professor of health law, bioethics and human rights at Boston University School of Public Health, Grodin is the medical ethicist at Boston Medical Center and the co-director of the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights.

Notice from the UNHCR - The Policy Development and Evaluation Service:

The Policy Development and Evaluation Service has created a "Witchcraft and Human Rights Network". It is an informal network where information about new developments, research and news related to witchcraft can be shared.

The first article we would like to share with the network is an Article written in New Issues in Refugee Research by Jill Schnoebelen called "Witchcraft Allegations and Displacement". 

If you are interested in participating in the network kindly inform Maria Riiskjaer at Thank you.




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