Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Religious and Theological Studies

First Advisor

Carrie Doehring

Second Advisor

Sandra Dixon

Third Advisor

Katherine Turpin


Embodiment, Integration, Interreligious competencies, Spiritual care, Trauma, Wholeness


A traumatic event holds the power to rupture one’s world, generating lingering effects on embodied existence. Research has demonstrated that overwhelmingly stressful events often call into question deeply held values and beliefs and that spiritual struggles “tend to be partially responsible for the distress experienced" (Pomerleau et al., 2020, pp. 456–457). Similarly, research with veterans has demonstrated that religious and spiritual struggles mediate the relationship between a potentially morally injurious event and both anxiety and PTSD (Evans et al., 2018), often intensifying trauma and moral injury symptoms as well as opening a pathway for spiritual integration and growth (Pargament & Exline, 2022). In this dissertation, I focus on the role of intrinsically meaningful somatic spiritual practices in helping trauma survivors reclaim embodied trust, lament loss, and seek wholeness. I use an interreligious approach, based on a revised correlational method from practical theology (Bennett et al., 2018; Marshall, 2004; Miller-McLemore, 2010). This approach brings lived experiences of intrinsically meaningful somatic spiritual practices into dialogue with interdisciplinary research, scholarship, and clinical approaches to propose a spiritually oriented trauma care praxis.

Existential–phenomenological therapies—notably, gestalt therapy and Eugene Gendlin’s focusing-oriented therapy—as well as interoception research support my argument that embodiment is an important integrative process that can occur in four stages. After summarizing the somatic impact of moral injury and trauma, I highlight three evidence-based somatic therapies for trauma integration that utilize interoception. I argue for the incorporation of relational trust and cocreativity in trauma care by utilizing (a) developmental psychologist Edward Tronick’s (2007; Tronick & Beeghly, 2011) mutual regulation model, (b) the dialogically derived cocreativity of field theory, (c) polyvagal theory regarding socially enhanced alert ease, and (d) Heart Rate Variability (HRV) research on coherence and synchrony. I propose a spiritually oriented, interreligious, trauma care praxis for cocreating intrinsically meaningful somatic spiritual practices that enable an abiding sense of trust. Such trust facilitates lament and spiritual wholeness in survivors of trauma and moral injury. An extended case study illustrates this praxis. The end goal is to help mental health and spiritual care practitioners develop competencies for spiritually oriented trauma care that integrate research and relational mystery by exploring somatic spiritual practices as a path to wholeness.

Publication Statement

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Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Shyamaa Marie Creaven

File size

195 pgs

File format





Behavioral psychology, Pastoral counseling, Spirituality