Moral Injury and Collective Healing

Extending the Concept of Moral Injury Beyond a Military Setting

The emerging issue of moral injury has been most often associated with returning military personnel. However, Volunteers of America believes this construct extends beyond the military setting, requiring more investigation into how to identify and treat moral injury among diverse populations. In that vein, Volunteers of America, The Soul Repair Center, and The Braxton Institute came together to hold a seminar titled, "Moral Injury and Collective Healing," an advanced training session for professionals in multiple fields, including theology, psychology, corrections, the arts, ministry, and more. Experts came together in this collective effort and this video and transcript is an overview of that event.


Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, Volunteers of America: My sense of this conference was that the whole conference from the beginning of the planning process to the very end this evening at its conclusion, was an amazing congruence of fields and people and experiences and skills and talents. So the three organizations, Volunteers of America, Soul Repair Center and the Braxton Institute put this together, had members on the planning team and the members themselves didn't necessarily share the same disciplines and cultural backgrounds and we wanted to bring the best team we could think of to show all the multi-dimensional aspects of moral injury recovery and all the ways you can access recovery. And I think we did that by demonstrating those strategies rather than just talking about them. And you could tell that at the end of the conference when we'd finally sung our last song with Ysaye Barnwell and people said, I feel this team, this collective, this sense that we, over the past three days have become a group, and I feel like even though I came and I didn't know anyone when I came, I now have a whole collection of new friends and people that I can consult with and talk to and explore more deeply this work on moral injury that we're all doing. It was just fabulous.

Gayle Robertson: I came looking for information to help me understand more about the subject. And I've definitely found that it's been a very enriching experience in addition to learning more about moral injury, I have also had experiences with people from all over the country and it has been as much as an event for my heart as for my head, and that's a surprise to me.

Bishop Abiathar Carroll: Moral injury, as I learned about it a month ago, has been interesting and exciting and now I come to the conference where I've learned great things. And as I break them down when I get back, that will be successful in not only just helping the veteran population and those who are incarcerated, but also want to be able to utilize this for gains.

John Thomason: So it was exciting to meet other people and hear their stories. Most importantly though, is the confrontation of moral injury. I primarily deal with addicts and recovered addicts and alcoholics, as I am myself. And the moral injury we cause to ourselves sometimes is almost insurmountable.

Sherman Haggerty: The conference brought together different methodologies of presenting information from the clinical approach to art as a therapy, and music as a therapy, which surprised me with the power to heal and engage and create therapy in a community setting.

Eric Busse: For me, it's because I'm finding it more and more urgent for communities to reclaim their moral responsibility for those who are vulnerable and marginalized and hurting in our communities. Which, if we're honest with ourselves, is going to be all of us at one point or another in our lives.

Dr. Rebecca Parker, The Braxton Institute: I so appreciated it when Jacques said that it doesn't work to just have one treatment modality that you believe in and think will work for everyone. What works is to have multiple pathways, to become skilled at multiple modalities of healing and intervention and response to moral injury.

Michael Nguyen: The experience has been great. Especially being a combat medic. I served during Desert Storm, Desert Shield and having my own PTSD as well as moral injury and then being able to work on that process as I'm also helping veterans work on their process.

Dr. William P. Nash: Moral injury is a concept that's made me very proud, actually, to be part of this conversation, is that it's become a linking concept. It has grown a circle in which all these different points of view, these different walks of life can converge and say "this is our common ground, this is our common space." That's exciting and we need more conversations like this.

Dr. Joanne Braxton, The Braxton Institute: What has transpired here over the last three days, building a vocal community, building a healing community, building a community of accountability and resistance across generations, across races, across disciplines, across professions, is nothing short of miraculous.