• Janice Selbie

5 Steps to Recovering From Religious Trauma Syndrome

Updated: Nov 21



Before we start, I want to mention that I have finally launched my own podcast. Listen to the first episode featuring Seth Andrews of the Thinking Atheist here: The Divorcing Religion Podcast. Please listen, subscribe, and leave a review!


5 Steps to Recovering From Religious Trauma Syndrome


Step #1: Doubt


The first step towards healing and recovery from religious trauma syndrome is recognizing that something ain’t right. Admitting that the pieces don’t fit is a vitally important first step to recovering from religious trauma because it plants the seed of doubt. Scared though we may be, it is imperative that we pluck up the courage to open our minds and follow our doubts. A good starting place is reading Dr. Valerie Tarico’s book Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs.


Step #2: Research


Watch videos and read articles and books by others who have left your particular group. You may find that they had the same questions and concerns as you. Consider lurking in online groups and forums for others who have left or are considering leaving their religions. If you don’t feel like it’s the right group for you, you’re under no obligation to stay. You are just gathering information. Dr. Tarico, mentioned above, also has an outstanding 9-part video series on YouTube called God’s Emotions: Why the Biblical God is so Very Human.


Step #3: Get Help


Now is the time to seek out a qualified, trauma-informed, SECULAR therapist or religious recovery consultant or coach. This is especially important if your family and/or spouse remains religious. You will have a lot to navigate, and support is essential. Even if your family is supportive, finding your feet and rebuilding a secular identity can be hard, confusing, and painful work. Do yourself a favour and get the help of a secular mental health clinician who is very familiar with religious trauma syndrome. I am available for one-on-one religious recovery consultation sessions here.


Step #4: Mourn Your Losses


Losing religious faith is HUGE. In fact, it is on par with losing a loved one to death – only RTS grief can be more complicated because there is no body to bury, and those who have never been religious (or not as devout as you) will not understand your loss. If you spent years in your group, your identity might also be coming unraveled. Learning about the different types of grief (particularly ambiguous loss, disenfranchised grief, and unresolved grief) and exploring releasing ceremonies can be helpful. Making lists of your losses and interacting with others who are also journeying through loss can be helpful. There is no correct timeline for grief, just as there is no straight line from start to finish.


Step #5: Rebuild/Reconstruct

It’s time to build your new secular identity. You have lots of experience being who others thought you should be; now is the time to figure out who you are. Values clarification exercises are valuable tools at this point, helping us to figure out what is truly important to us rather than what our religious group told us had to be important. This is the time to explore other belief systems, from the 7 Tenets of TST to the Humanist Manifesto, to see where we align or diverge with those ideologies. Get busy building supportive secular communities around activities you enjoy, too. It’s time to take your seat at the buffet table of life and start feasting! Like a dish? Help yourself to seconds! Dislike it? Spit it out and move on - without judging yourself.


Places to start building your support network include:



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