The therapeutic use of ritual and ceremony in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder

David Read Johnson, Susan C. Feldman, Hadar Lubin, Steven M. Southwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

The therapeutic purposes and effects of specially designed ceremonies in the treatment of persons with post-traumatic stress disorder are described. Ceremonies compartmentalize the review of the trauma, provide symbolic enactments of transformation of previously shattered relationships, and reestablish connections among family and with society in general. Four ceremonies used with Vietnam combat veterans are described which focus on the themes of separation from and return to the family, forgiveness of the living, and releasing the dead. Ritual and ceremony are highly efficient vehicles for accessing and containing intense emotions evoked by traumatic experience. Evaluation by family and veterans judge these ceremonies to be the most effective components of treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-298
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1995
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Vietnam veterans
  • ceremony

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