PTSD:Pastoral,Psychological, &Theol Responses

Instructor: Carrie Doehring, Ph.D. 303-765-3169

Course Synopsis

Class texts

Monday, October 7

2.30 – 4 pm - Linda Newell & Kathi Schlegel

4- 5.30 pm Sarah Atamian and Maxine Christopher (Zoom)

5.30 – 7 pm Tressa Nawyn and Elisa Erickson

Wednesday, October 9

2.00 pm - 3.30 pm Jenny LaJoye & Tim Brown

Thursday, October 10

12.00 – 1.30 pm - Katherine Daniels and Karen Harder

1.30 – 3.00 pm  - Reed Tanner and Robert Patterson

3.00 – 4.30 pm - Joanna Douglass and Ashley Nolan (Zoom)

5.15 – 6.15 pm - Jesse O'Neal and Kristin Famula

Friday, October 11

12.15 - 1.45 pm Jeff Zust & Dylan Doyle-Burke

Saturday, October 12

9 – 10.30 a.m. -Sylvia Canty and Nikki Kranzler-Gacke (Zoom)

Course Overview and Objectives


MDIV Degree: Demonstrate a complex interdisciplinary understanding of theological disciplines, as well as develop and embody a comprehensive range of ministerial responsibilities, skills, and capacities – intellectual and affective, individual and corporate, ecclesial and public – that inform and support a life of religious leadership.

MAPSC Degree: Demonstrate a complex interdisciplinary understanding of the human person in social context, develop and demonstrate an intercultural approach to pastoral and spiritual care[i], and demonstrate personal and professional competencies needed by effective caregivers.

DU/Iliff Joint PhD in the Study of Religion

Understand key ideas, themes, theories, questions, problems, and trends in the study of religion and human experience using religious, psychological and theological studies to demonstrate competencies in intercultural, evidence-based and socially justice spiritual care.


Courses in Theology and Religious Practices (PR): Engage in analysis of contemporary religious traditions and institutions in order to assess, design, and perform meaningful leadership practices with sensitivity to contextual realities and relationships.




Goal 1.  Critical Thinking Skills: Develop critical thinking skills in religious, theological, and psychological studies, drawing upon coursework in all areas of one’s degree curriculum.

  1. In religious studies (e.g., MDiv/MAPSC courses in Comparative Religious Traditions [CR]), become literate in core beliefs and practices of religions of the world (; see also Prothero’s Chapter 6 “A Dictionary of Religious Terms” (2007); think critically about how a search for similarities among religions of the world has historically been a search for the ‘one God’ of Christianity (Prothero, 2010); use particularist approaches to religion that pay attention to differences among the worldviews, beliefs, values, and practices of religions of the world (see footnote 1 below).
  2. In theological, biblical, historical, and ethical studies (e.g., MDiv/MAPSC courses in Sacred Texts [TX], Social/Contextual Analysis [AN], Historical Development/ Expressions of Religious Traditions [HI], and Constructive Theology [TH]), identify the biblical, ethical, historical, and theological ways that religious and, in particular, Christian approaches to religions of the world—exclusivisms, inclusivisms, pluralisms, and particularities[ii]—shape pastoral and spiritual care within communities of faith, in religiously diverse settings like health care and military contexts, and in global contexts. Identify and assess values, beliefs, and religious/spiritual practices—especially related to suffering and hope—using biblical, ethical, historical, theological, and philosophical sources and critical methods.
  3. In psychological studies of religion, know how to search databases to find and use research on religious coping, in order to provide evidence-based spiritual care that identifies and assesses how people draw upon aspects of religion and spirituality to cope with stress in helpful and/or harmful ways.

Outcomes: Students demonstrate critical thinking skills in forum discussions, ethics assignment and final project using course readings, traveling knowledge from other courses, and literature searches required for assignments. 

Goal 2. Spiritual Integration: Engage in a personal process of spiritual integration by finding and using intrinsically meaningful body-aware practices that

  1. Increase self-awareness of one’s stress-based reactions/emotions that give rise to life-limiting, socially oppressive beliefs, values, and consumer ways of coping, especially for coping with academic stress.
  2. Increase self-compassion, self-transcendence, and relational systems that support use of meaningful body-aware practices as a basis for searching for meanings about one’s stress responses and life experiences (Doehring, 2018b).

Outcomes: Students become accountable for their use of body-aware practices in weekly posts, helping them experiment with using practices that foster spiritual integration.

Goal 3. Cultural Humility and Intercultural Competence: Develop and demonstrate an intercultural approach to pastoral and spiritual care that respects what is unique and distinctive about each person’s religious, spiritual, existential, or moral orienting system (values, beliefs, practices).

Outcomes: Students will demonstrate their intercultural capacity in the ways they respond to each other’s forum discussions and final assignment.

Goal 4. Self-Differentiation/Reflexivity: Demonstrate psychological and theological self-differentiation by (a) tracking one’s personal theologies/orienting systems that arise from stress in the midst of a spiritual care conversation, and (b) using momentary spiritual practices in order to not blur boundaries between self and other, over-identify with the other, or emotionally disengage. 

Outcomes: Students will demonstrate self-differentiation in the ways they respond in forum discussions and final assignment.

Goal 5. Theological Empathy: Demonstrate theological empathy by (1) respectfully stepping into another’s religious, spiritual, existential, or moral orienting systems; (2) imagining how these orienting systems ‘work’ contextually, especially as a way of coping with stress; and (3) using their social empathy and critical thinking skills to understand the personal and cultural contexts of the other’s beliefs and values, especially about suffering exacerbated by injustice and hope for justice (Doehring, 2018a).

Outcomes: Students will demonstrate theological empathy in the ways they respond in forum discussions and final assignments.

Goal 6. Establishing Trust and Searching for Meanings: Understand these two key ingredients of intercultural spiritual care (Doehring, 2015):

  1. Establish trust by (1) respecting care seekers’ values, beliefs, ways of coping and connecting with the sacred, and (2) helping care seekers experience self-compassion and safety by finding intrinsically meaningful spiritual care practices that make them aware of stress in their bodies.
  2. Collaboratively search for life-giving intentional beliefs and values about suffering that arise from experiencing compassion that helps care seekers understand the ways automatic stress responses often make them feel anxious, angry, ashamed and guilty, which in turn gives rise to life limiting values and beliefs and consumer ways of coping shaped by intersecting social oppressions.

Outcomes: Students demonstrate their understanding of spiritual care in forum posts and their final assignments.



Doehring, C. (2015). The practice of pastoral care: A postmodern approach (Revised and expanded ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox.

Doehring, C. (2018a). Teaching theological empathy to distance learners of intercultural spiritual care. Pastoral Psychology 67 (5), 461-474. doi: 10.1007/s11089-018-0812-6

Doehring, C. (2018b). Searching for wholeness amidst traumatic grief: The role of spiritual practice that reveal compassion in embodied, relational, and transcendent ways. Pastoral Psychology. doi: 10.1007/s11089-018-0858-5

Hedges, P. (2010). Controversies in interreligious dialogue and the theology of religions. London: SCM Press.

Hick, J. (1989). An interpretation of religion. London: MacMillan.

Moyaert, M. (2005). Interreligious dialogue and the debate between universalism and particularism: Searching for a way out of the deadlock. Studies in Interreligious Dialogue, 15(1), 36-51.

Moyaert, M. (2012). Recent developments in the theology of interreligious dialogue: From soteriological openness to hermeneutical openness. Modern Theology, 28(1), 25-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0025.2011.01724.x

Prothero, S. R. (2007). Religious literacy: What every American needs to know--and doesn't. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco.

Prothero, S. R. (2010). God is not one: The eight rival religions that run the world and why their differences matter. New York, NY: HarperOne.

Race, A. (1983). Christians and religious pluralism. London: SCM.

Tervalon, M., & Murray-Garcia, J. (1998). Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Undeserved, 9(2), 117–125.





[i] Pastoral care historically describes care in Christian traditions/communities, although it has also been used to describe care in Jewish traditions. Spiritual care is now used in healthcare and military contexts to describe care offered by chaplains. Spiritual care within a religion is now described by identifying the religion/tradition (e.g., Buddhist spiritual care).

[ii] A three-fold typology of Christian approaches to religions of the world as exclusivist, inclusivist, and pluralist was first proposed by Race (1983). Here are simple descriptions of these approaches:

Exclusivisms: Religious sources of authority (e.g., sacred texts, doctrine, religious authorities, religious experiences of, for example, the Holy Spirit) are exclusively true, with literal norms of interpretation (e.g., Christianity is the only truth; confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior is the only means of salvation; the goal of faith is salvation through belief in cornerstone doctrines). Exclusivist pastoral care tries to convert or persuade people through witness to find salvation/fulfillment/faith/healing through singular exclusively true beliefs and/or practices. Moyeart (2012, p. 27) notes that many Christian exclusive theologies emphasize the sinfulness of humanity, a high Christology, and salvation through affirmation of Jesus as one’s personal savior. Those within religious traditions/communities that require literal faith affirmation of exclusivist beliefs may require their religious leaders to provide pastoral care within their communities that is based on exclusivist religious goals, as the only way to save those who are fallen. Pastoral care to those outside one’s community must also focus on salvation, since, in these exclusivist approaches, other “Religions are understood as the expression of human attempts to achieve salvation on their own power, neglecting thereby the fact that salvation comes only through faith in Christ” (Moyeart,  2012, p. 27). 

Inclusivisms: Many religious paths lead to same end, often configured as the ‘one God’ of Christianity (Prothero, 2010). Examples of inclusivist metaphors are the many paths that lead to the same mountain top, or the sight-impaired people touching different parts of the elephant. Inclusivist pastoral or spiritual care accepts a diversity of paths, but sees all paths as leading to the same God/salvation/fulfillment, although professed belief in a singular truth/God may not be necessary for salvation/fulfillment, as it is in exclusivist approaches (an inclusivist belief is that God’s salvation embraces all whether they explicitly confess belief or not).

Pluralisms: Religious diversity is a given and needs to be respected. Those committed to inter-religious dialogue search for ways to talk about universal aspects of religious experiences of transcendence and ineffable mystery, like John Hick’s references to the Real, the Ultimate, or Ultimate Reality (1989). “Faith is believed to be essentially the same for all religious traditions, whereas belief and tradition stand for the historically and culturally determined interpretation of ultimate reality (Moyaert, 2005, p. 42, italics in original). Pluralist spiritual care respects differences yet seeks to find common ways across traditions to spiritually care for people, and to find out, especially through research, how aspects of religion or spirituality help or hinder people, especially in coping with stress.

Particularities: assert that searching for ways to talk about and do research on what is shared or universal across religions of the world inevitably erases what is unique and particular to each religion/culture:

Thus, particularistic theologians state that the differences between the ethics of the religions are substantial and they question the value of global ethical declarations. Of course, one might say that all religions are for peace, love, hope, justice, human dignity and the protection of animals. However, these very formal notions and concepts come to mean very different things within each tradition. The stories, rituals and doctrines of each tradition give particular continence to each of these formal ethical terms, and at the level of the concrete religious and ethical praxis of the religious communities the differences are immense. (Moyaert, 2005, p. 44)

Particularist spiritual care builds trust by listening for and respecting what is unique and particular in the ways persons and communities search for meaning and experience transcendence and mystery (note, however, that the inclusivist terms used in this statement—meaning, transcendence, mystery—assume these are core aspects to each person’s experience of what we commonly call religion spirituality or a way of being oriented to the world.

Hedges (2010, p. 30) summarizes these four approaches to religious truth/difference as follows: “Exclusivist approaches typify ‘discontinuity’, inclusivist approaches typify ‘fulfillment’, pluralist approaches typify ‘openness’, and particularist approaches typify ‘difference’.”

Moyaert (2012) notes that interreligious dialogue is challenging because of potential conflicts between commitment to one’s own religion and openness to the other. Such challenges are often inherent in intercultural spiritual care, especially for caregivers who experience religious, spiritual, and moral struggles about when and how to be committed to particular beliefs within one’s ordaining/endorsing tradition especially in religiously diverse contexts, as Doehring (2018b) notes in describing struggles over beliefs in resurrection.


Intercultural spiritual care begins with particularities by respecting the alterity of care seekers’ orienting systems. Simply remaining in a stance of listening for differences is often not sufficient spiritual care, especially if caregivers are using critical thinking skills and knowledge about what might exacerbate or ameliorate the other’s suffering. If trust is established then spiritual care may move into a collaborative search for practices, meanings, and values that support and help people who are suffering. In healthcare and military contexts, caregivers will need to use research based on pluralism that assesses when and how aspects of religion or spirituality help or harm people, especially those experiencing religious, spiritual, or moral struggles.


Weekly reading posts and responses to be posted before class by Monday (midnight) with replies by Thursday: 8 points/per week (total 64%)

Grading Rubric:

One journal assignment following the outline provided online: Due to your partner and Prof. Doehring and by midnight Monday, September 30th, interview questions due 5 days later on Friday, October 4th.  These students’ journal assignments will become the basis for the recorded spiritual care conversations with your learning partners in the week of gathering days (Journal 25%; interview questions 11%). We are going to make recordings of these conversations so that we can reference quotations in the forums for the second half of the course.

Submitting and revising the spiritual care conversation questions: In preparation for leading a spiritual care conversation with a peer, each student will prepare a list of questions for their spiritual care conversation with their partner, following the outline provided online, and also the video conversation also provided online. These questions will be submitted to Prof. Doehring and their partner, for feedback and revision of questions prior to the spiritual care conversations.

Signing up with your partners for a 90" time for two recorded conversations following these posted instructions: After you have found a spiritual care conversation partner, hit the edit button, and put your names beside one of the 90" time blocks (TBA) for your back to back spiritual care conversations (30 minutes per conversation). We prefer to do the conversations at Iliff for local students and journey students on campus during journey week. If you will not be able to get to campus, we can do the conversations by Zoom.  Make sure you then it "save" at the bottom and double-check that your names are now listed. (Schedule to be posted)

Grade Scale

A.................... 97–100

A-................... 93–96

B+.................. 89–92

B..................... 85–88

B-................... 80–84

C+.................. 78–79

C..................... 73–77

C-................... 70–72

D+................. 68–69

D.................... 60–67

F...................... 59 or below

(Note: at Iliff professors determine grading scales they will use to assign final course grades) 

Sep 10, 2019TueWeek 1 Post by Monday 9/9, reply by Thursday 9/12due by 05:59AM
Sep 13, 2019FriWeek 1 Reply to the forum discussiondue by 05:59AM
Sep 17, 2019TueWeek 2 Post by Monday 9/16, reply by Thursday 9/19due by 05:59AM
Sep 20, 2019FriWeek 2 Reply to the Forum Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Sep 24, 2019TueWeek 3 Post by Monday, Reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
Sep 27, 2019FriWeek 3 Reply to the forum discussiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 01, 2019TueWeek 4 Post by Monday, reply by Thursdaydue by 05:59AM
Oct 04, 2019FriWeek 4 By Thursday, read your partner's assignment and post your spiritual care questionsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 08, 2019TueWeek 5 Spiritual Care Conversationdue by 05:59AM
Oct 16, 2019WedWeek 6 Post by Tuesday, reply by Fridaydue by 05:59AM
Oct 22, 2019TueWeek 7 Post by Monday; reply by Fridaydue by 05:59AM
Oct 29, 2019TueWeek 8 Post by Monday, Reply by Fridaydue by 05:59AM
Nov 05, 2019TueWeek 9 Post by Monday, reply by Fridaydue by 06:59AM
Nov 12, 2019TueWeek 10 Post by Mondaydue by 06:59AM