The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

December 2002

Spirituality And PTSD; The Study


Besides being your National Chaplain, I am also the president of the National Conference of Viet Nam Veteran Ministers, an organization I founded in November 1990. One of our affiliate members, Margaret Nelson-Pechota, is a graduate student in clinical psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  

Margaret joined our organization while she was doing an internship at a New York VA Medical Center. She was working primarily with PTSD in Vietnam veterans. She has a strong spiritual base and became interested in the work of NCVNVM, particularly the PTSD Spiritual Healing Retreats we offer. She attended several of them and saw how effective they are in helping Vietnam veterans and their partners with spiritual healing. Shortly thereafter, she decided to pursue the topic of PTSD and Spirituality for her doctoral thesis.  She needs help. 

Comparatively little attention has been given to the spiritual suffering of Vietnam veterans, although the literature abounds with descriptions of the moral dilemmas these men and women faced, their ensuing guilt, existential meaninglessness, and disconnection from God. Pechota's study will investigate how the interrelationships among guilt, spirituality and combat experiences of Vietnam veterans are related to their current levels of psychological functioning.

Spirituality will be addressed primarily within the context of Christianity for two reasons: (1) the values of American society have been based upon Judeo-Christian religious traditions, and (2) most American soldiers in Vietnam came from Christian backgrounds.  Thus a veteran's relationship with God will be considered to be a primary target of investigation.   

Variables under investigation are: level of combat exposure, combat-related guilt, global spirituality, religious involvement, religious coping (positive or negative relationship with God, representing connection versus alienation), life purpose, forgiveness (of self, of other, and by God), and PTSD symptomatology. 

The study will require approximately 200 non-hospitalized combat veterans without a diagnosis of severe mental illness - other than PTSD - and without alcohol or substance abuse problems.  These participants will be recruited through Vet Centers, Outpatient PTSD treatment groups, and  organizations such as NCVNVM. Participants also will be recruited through community resources such as churches, bookstores, store bulletin boards, and newspaper press releases.   

A flier will be created to explain the study briefly and encourage participation. Packets of questionnaires with self-addressed stamped envelopes will be provided to individuals willing to participate in the study. The estimated time to complete the questionnaires is 30 minutes.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

In the event that completion of the questionnaires leads to emotional distress, participants should consult the list of referral sources provided with the packet. 

If you are interested in participating in this study, please e-mail me at This will be a very important study. I believe it will help us understand how to help combat veterans with spiritual healing.

I want to wish you all a Happy and Blessed Holiday Season. Please remember to pray for peace and for all of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen deployed overseas and for their families. 


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