Lionhearted: Spirituality and Trauma | Uplift Family Services

Lion mother with cub in banner for Lionhearted

Volume 6 • Issue 5 • October 2021

Uplift Family Services is a trauma-informed agency, providing whole person care through resilience-oriented, data-driven, culturally sensitive services. We believe in the power of staff investment, advocacy and collaboration as we partner with individuals, families, and communities to heal from the widespread impact of trauma.

Dr. Gwendolyn Dowdy-Rodgers is a Community Development Specialist at Uplift Family Services and a lifetime resident of San Bernardino. Gwen is a wife, a mother, a PhD, a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta, and School Board President for the San Bernardino City Unified School District. She is an assistant pastor, a leader in the fight for social justice, diversity, and inclusion, and a member of the Uplift Family Services Race, Equity, and Justice Committee. In this issue of Lionhearted, Gwen shares her thoughts on spirituality, mental health, and trauma.

Q: What is spirituality? Does it have a place in behavioral healthcare?

Spirituality is a broad concept that means something different to every individual. Overall, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, including a search for meaning in life or belonging. Some have described spirituality as sacred, transcendent, or a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness, something meaningful to us all. One thing I believe for sure: spirituality has a place in behavioral health.

Q: What would be an example?

I am a member of the San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health’s Spirituality Subcommittee, where individuals express ideas void of judgement. Meetings open with the question, “What is alive for you today?” During one call, a participant shared feeling overwhelmed and isolated. When they felt lonely, they would reflect on past trauma. But, they experienced inner peace through their belief system and feeling connected with positive people on the call.

Q: How can spirituality help people cope with trauma?

Trauma can take individuals to places of discomfort and separation, both at home and at work. At work, it sometimes seems that the only concern is to get the job at hand done. Spirituality allows an individual to transcend to a place of comfort and peace on their own terms, to reflect on their ultimate purpose and their reason to exist.

Q: Is there a place for spirituality in supervision?

Whether you are the supervisee or the supervisor, we are all spiritual beings. Like it or not, being a supervisor is a place of authority, or power, if you will. For a supervisor, recognizing that power through a spiritual lens can ignite an awareness that those under your leadership seek more than knowledge, skills, and an annual evaluation. They seek a sense of connectedness, just as the clients they serve. It is important for a supervisor to acknowledge that spirituality is alive today in the lives of those they supervise.

Q: How is spirituality different than religion?

Any agency can recognize the value of spirituality, but that is not comparable to religion, which focuses more on outside practices. Spirituality comes from within.

Q: What else can you recommend to staff and customers?

If your county department of behavioral health has a spirituality committee, I suggest you take time to attend it a time or two. Should your county not have one, it would be a great recommendation. Regardless of a formalized committee, we should take the time to be mindful about how mental health and spirituality can work together.