Promoting Research Literacy for Improved Patient Outcomes

Roles of Religion and Spirituality among Veterans Who Manage PTSD and Their Partners

Roles of Religion and Spirituality among Veterans Who Manage PTSD and Their Partners

Traumatic events can have ripple effects on the survivor’s intimate relationships and on his or her religious/spirituality (R/S) beliefs and practices. Although both of these outcomes have been examined independently, research has yet to consider the intersection of trauma, its impacts on partners and intimate relationships, and R/S. This exploratory qualitative study involved individual interviews with 20 participants, including 11 male married veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; or subthreshold PTSD) and 9 female married partners of male veterans with PTSD (or subthreshold PTSD). Interviews explored perceptions of the roles of R/S in how participants coped with the veteran’s PTSD, both individually and as a couple. Participants described a wide array of responses in their R/S beliefs and activities, ranging from withdrawal and avoidance to deeper engagement and growth. Although many participants described drawing upon their R/S beliefs and practices to support their spouses, a few shared how female partners used R/S against their veterans in a hurtful manner. Couples described their spiritual bond with one another as facilitating communication and strengthening their relational bond. Implications for psychotherapy and future research are discussed.