New Study Shows Significant Decline in Stress and PTSD Among Inmates Who Participated in Trauma Healing

American Bible Society (ABS) and Baylor University today released a commissioned report studying the effectiveness of a Bible-based Trauma Healing Ministry program titled Healing the Wounded Heart. The program is administered in the United States jail and prison systems by American Bible Society and the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry. This five-session program facilitated by volunteers at Riverside Regional Jail in North Prince George, Virginia, was found to significantly reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among inmates who completed the program.

“As America experiences a mental health crisis, this study shows the potential benefits of faith-sensitive care for traumatized people. The Bible has been shown to be a vital source for emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental healing,” said Robert L. Briggs, ABS President and CEO. “The volunteer-driven Trauma Healing Ministry at American Bible Society is an important resource for the church, helping her respond to the deep wounds of trauma in communities. There aren’t many programs like this that reduce post-traumatic stress, improve positive virtues like forgiveness and compassion, increase confidence in God and the Bible, and reduce negative behaviors at this low of a cost. It’s highly efficient, effective, and scalable across the country.”

Researchers Byron R. Johnson, Sung Joon Jang, and Matt Bradshaw of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion conducted the study and coauthored this new report on the contextualized Bible-based Trauma Healing Ministry program for inmates, noting that the program enhanced emotional well-being among inmates and that the salutary effects extended to a number of behaviors as well as emotional states. Dr. Johnson expressed surprise at the program’s unprecedented effectiveness: “No other known intervention accomplishes so much good for highly traumatized jail inmates in such a short period of time.”

Bible-based trauma healing was developed by SIL Bible translators working with local church leaders in East African war zones in the late 1990s. In 2010, American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Ministry began adapting and contextualizing the program’s curriculum to help survivors of many different types of trauma process their pain and rediscover hope in the pages of Scripture. To date, more than 1 million people in prisons, refugee camps, recovery programs, and churches have participated in the program in more than 125 countries, and American Bible Society continues to train church leaders, community leaders, and nonprofit organizations to put trauma healing into practice. The program has been shown to increase resilience and forgiveness and reduce vengefulness. It helps participants better perceive the support of their families and friends as well as the presence of meaning in their lives.


For this longitudinal study, 349 inmates participated (210 in the treatment group; 139 in the control group), completing a survey at multiple time points from September of 2018 to March of 2020. The survey included measures of: (a) the negative consequences of trauma exposure (i.e., PTSD, complicated grief, depression, anxiety, anger, suicidal ideation, and interpersonal aggression); and (b) primary outcomes that the Trauma Healing Ministry is designed to promote (i.e., forgiveness, compassion, resilience, reasons for living, and religiosity) or reduce (i.e., vengefulness and blaming God for trauma) as well as secondary ones that it may influence (i.e., perceived support from family and friends, meaning in life, gratitude to God, spiritual transformation, and Bible reading).

The main goal of the study was to examine whether inmates who completed the Trauma Healing Ministry program were the beneficiaries of better outcomes compared with a control group of prisoners that did not participate. Over the study period, participants experienced significant reductions in PTSD as well as declines in other negative consequences of trauma such as vengefulness. Desirable characteristics, such as forgiveness, resilience, and meaning in life increased. The impact of the program remained consistent or even to continue to improve at one to three months after completion for additional outcome variables, including forgiveness, vengefulness, compassion, resilience, blaming God for trauma, support from family and friends, and meaning in life.

To read the full report, visit

Related Blogs

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

Help us share God's Word where needed most.

Give Now

Sign up to stay in touch with how God is changing lives with his Word!


Subscribe Now

Sign up to stay in touch with how God is changing lives with his Word!