Mar 02, 2020

By John W. Coleman

The United Methodist Church’s Eastern PA Conference will offer an unusual workshop to address a timely topic that concerns many people of color in today’s highly charged racial climate: race-based traumatic stress.

Rev. R. Dandridge Collins

The conference’s Commission on Religion and Race (CORR) will sponsor “Racism, Post-Traumatic Stress, & Transformation” on October 17, 2020, at Simpson House, 2101 Belmont Ave, Philadelphia, PA, from 8:30 AM to 3 PM. All people of color, clergy and lay, are encouraged to attend this 6-hour workshop, led by the Rev. R. Dandridge Collins (Ph.D., M.Div), a pastoral psychologist, author, lecturer and Baptist minister.

Collins, a trauma expert, will teach and lead participants in frank discussions to explore emotional distress and trauma caused in part by racist mistreatment, conflict and reactions, past and present. Interested persons should register soon. Space may fill up quickly for what should be a popular event.

The $25 registration fee includes: continental breakfast, lunch and a copy of Collins’ bestselling 2007 book The Trauma Zone: Trusting God for Emotional Healing. Register today.  Download and share the flyer.

The workshop will define racism and how it can cause symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) for racial-ethnic people who have faced racial prejudice, hostility and discrimination. Even if such offenses happened long ago, the hurtful memories or impressions they leave are like unhealed wounds and can remain stressful and disruptive to one’s life and relationships.

‘Post-Traumatic Growth’

Collins will help his audience explore resulting emotions such as oversensitivity to criticism, feeling marginalized, disrespected or ridiculed, or questioning one’s own sanity. But he will also introduce practical solutions and resources to foster what he calls “Post-Traumatic Growth,” that is, finding deliverance and healing from trauma.

A licensed psychologist for nearly three decades, Collins has a practice in the Philadelphia area and has appeared on radio and television. He is fluent in Spanish, French, and Sign Language and is a former president of the Delaware Valley Association of Black Psychologists. He has spoken to groups on the meaning of trauma and its impacts on clergy and congregations.

CORR decided to offer the workshop after hearing a report about an incident during a “How to Talk about Race” class at the South District’s Tools for Ministry session in 2018. One individual in the class revealed his trauma because of racism and not having an appropriate place and means to share his pain. All four districts have held numerous racial dialogues as part of the conference’s 2016-2020 Call to Action racial justice and reconciliation initiative, and some even before 2016.

While Collins’ book covers biblical principles and spiritual healing for trauma in general, he has studied and addressed the racial context of trauma more specifically. His book examines how survivors of severe trauma fall into “the trauma zone”—a place where they can feel stuck, victimized by their past, unable to cope with overwhelming emotions, trapped in denial and doomed to repeat mistakes over and over.  

Wikipedia reports that “Race-based traumatic stress is the traumatic response to stress following a racial encounter.” Recent studies have revealed findings about race-based traumatic stress, which can burden adults but also children.

‘Race-based traumatic stress’ 

“African Americans have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and experience more racial discrimination than other groups,” said one study, using “the Trauma Symptoms of Discrimination Scale (TSDS), a new measure of discriminatory distress measuring anxiety-related trauma symptoms.” (Source: APA PsycNET, American Psychological Association, 2019.)

In therapy, Collins gives clients space to figure out if a slight or insult is race-related. He said other therapists may reject the idea when clients link unfair treatment, stress and race. “It’s perceived that they’re jumping to conclusions. It’s kind of crazy-making because you wonder, ‘Am I overreacting to this?’”

But feeling victimized by racism can often cause overwhelming stress, he said in a WHYY audio interview. “One of the things that we have to do as healers is to give voice to it. Even if we don’t agree, if we can just hear and respect the perspective, the perception someone has that they are being treated unfairly, then that creates the framework for meaningful dialogue.”

Health researchers at Penn State University used a large national survey to ask how the experience of racism relates to generalized anxiety, a disorder that creates overwhelming worry and interferes with life. The survey asked people about unfair treatment that they considered to be motivated by race, things like being denied a loan or harassed by the police.

“African Americans who said that they experienced greater incidents of racial discrimination had greater odds of having generalized anxiety disorder at some point throughout their life,” said Jose Soto, a psychologist and assistant professor. “We don’t have enough understanding of what that does to the individual in terms of health and healthy functioning.…Most clients don’t come in and talk about their experiences as a racial minority in this country and how that’s impacted them. And I don’t think most therapists ask about that,” Soto said.

The Trauma Zone has received many glowing reviews as a practical, clearly written self-help book and resource for counseling. “I have dealt with PTSD and dissociative issues for 30 years,” wrote one reviewer. “This is the book that changed my life. The combination of scripture, practical insights, application suggestions and a warm, compassionate tone throughout make this book a balm to a hurting heart.”

The book is available from online booksellers, but copies will be given to registered workshop participants.

Information in other media sources:

The Link Between Racism and PTSD
Sep 06, 2015 – A psychologist explains race-based stress and trauma in Black Americans.

Researching race and emotion – WHYY 
Apr 18, 2016 – “Announcer: Excedrin for Racial Tension Headaches, fast relief for … “Really, racial battle fatigue is another way of saying posttraumatic stress,” Collins said. Philadelphia psychologist RDandridge Collins is author of “The Trauma Zone.” Collins: “Even if we don’t agree, if we can just hear and respect the …

Clergy embrace trauma informed training in Greater Philadelphia
Jun 15, 2017 – An exceptional all-day “Trauma-Informed Training for Clergy” event was held … Urban ACE Study) show the degree to which trauma exists in Philadelphia and … Adding the 5 stressors (witnessing violence, racism, unsafe … Dr. Dandridge Collins is a highly-respected Baptist Minister,…