Bracing for the Storm: The Imperative of Psycho-Trauma Training in Nigerian Seminaries

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 Bracing for the Storm: The Imperative of Psycho-Trauma Training in Nigerian Seminaries

Richard Ehusani, Ph.D.
Psycho-Spiritual Institute of Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, Nairobi, Kenya
Received: 21 February 2023; Accepted: 03 March 2023; Published: 05 April 2023

Abstract – Seminary formation programmes in Nigeria do not include trauma training, consequently leaving seminarians completely unprepared to provide trauma care and counselling when they become priests. The present study is an attempt to build support for incorporating trauma training into seminary classrooms. The aim was to show that preparing seminarians for the emotional reactions they may experience while providing trauma care is a necessity, given the increasing prevalence of stress and trauma in Nigeria. A purposive convenience sampling technique was used to recruit senior seminarians from two Catholic major seminaries in Nigeria. Responding to a Likert-type survey created for this study, 83 seminarians provided usable data regarding the following variables: Trauma awareness levels; Perceived readiness to provide trauma care; and levels of experience garnered from annual (6-weeks) apostolic internship. The statistical package for social science research (SPSS) version 25 aided the analysis of data, including the measurement and correlation test of the variables. The results indicated that most of the seminarians (n = 61, 73.4% of the sample) were hardly aware of the potentially traumatizing aspects of pastoral work. Although they had slightly higher scores for their perceived readiness to provide trauma care than they had for trauma awareness, the results showed that these two variables had a statistically non-significant relationship. There was also no significant relationship between their experience from annual pastoral internships and their abysmally low trauma awareness scores. These results suggest the importance of targeted training in basic trauma awareness for seminarians in Nigeria. Implications for seminaries and future studies are discussed.

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Keywords – Pastoral Work, Seminarians, Secondary Traumatic Stress, Trauma Awareness Training, Trauma Care, Trauma in Nigeria

I. Introduction

Trauma in Nigeria has become a topic of much discussion in recent times due to the increasing prevalence of distressing, life-altering events across the country, including ethnic conflict and the destruction of entire communities, terror attacks, exposure to killings and dismemberment of loved ones, kidnapping for ransom or political reasons, intimate partner violence, human rights abuses, and the general poverty in the land that has only aggravated the adverse impact of traumatic events. Beyond those who directly suffer these traumas, empirical evidence shows that individuals who provide formal or informal care to traumatised persons could also be traumatised by listening to the narratives of victims’ trauma experiences. Such indirect experience of trauma is variously referred to as secondary traumatic stress [1], compassion fatigue [2], or vicarious trauma [3]. These terms generally describe a condition in which individuals are traumatised not by directly experiencing a traumatic event but by hearing about a traumatic event experienced by someone else. Numerous studies have documented the experience of secondary or indirect traumatisation among helping professionals working in various fields, including the clergy [4], [5], [6].
Because pastoral work often involves providing care and support to vulnerable and suffering persons traumatised by emotionally stressful events and abuses [7], the clergy is often exposed to the distressing details of traumatic events. In many communities, the clergy is often the first contact for trauma victims. In Nigeria, for instance, where people are still reluctant to seek mental health care because of the perceived associated stigma, the clergy is often the available and affordable option. Pastors and priests are typically on call to minister to those in need regardless of circumstance, adverse conditions, or time, and because they see themselves as called or expected to be self-sacrificing, empathic caregivers, they can be at risk of psychological distress due to exposure to others’ traumatic material [8].


  • Sunday

    This is spot on. Thorough and truely timely. A fire waiting to ignite. Safety precautions must be set in place, even fire service approach must be planned ahead of this problem before it becomes a disaster. Thank you Fr Richard.

  • Fidelia

    Nice work Fr. I agree that this will be really helpful both for priests ( in handling their own emotions) and for parishioners who may need their help. God bless and guide you.

  • Florence Nwachukwu

    Congratulations! This novel work particularly in Nigeria is highly commendable.Surely,it would be life saving.The Trauma education and Training should be highly encouraged as this would help seminaries to be resilient and cope better with secondary trauma they are bound to experience..

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