Empathic care and healing the wounds of war in Ukraine

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This article analyses the religiously infused talk therapy provided by military chaplains to soldiers as they transition to civilian life. They offer a form of empathic care that centres on dialogue and existential engagement, which often begins in hospital and extends beyond physical healing. Proposals to treat the emotional distress soldiers experience include creating residential centres in monasteries and the use of a religiously oriented therapeutic idiom to ‘work on the self ’ so as to hear and obey the ‘voice of one’s soul’. State-sponsored military chaplains harness religion for therapeutic purposes with the goal of transforming soldiers into high-functioning, religiously committed, patriotic, moral citizens dedicated to protecting a newly fortified sovereign country. This normativises a spiritual dimension to care, healing and understandings of the sources of wellbeing. More broadly, this injects religious practices and symbolism into secular social institutions and shifts the emotional tenor of public domains by mobilising the therapeutic qualities of religion for the purposes of social healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-170
Number of pages16
JournalEmotions and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Cultural Studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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