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Numerous studies have affirmed that interpersonal isolation is one of the unique challenges clergy face. This study examined the experience of interpersonal isolation among a sample of clergy serving in a senior pastor role by having them complete a modified form of the Social Support Questionnaire, Short Form (SSQSR), as well as six open-ended interview questions. The interview responses of clergy participants were compared based on a median split of the SSQSR satisfaction scores. Analysis of clergy responses revealed several prominent themes in the following areas: barriers to establishing supportive relationships, strategies for establishing and maintaining supportive relationships, lack of support, and coping with loneliness. Identified themes, as well as clergy responses that exemplified these themes, are discussed. Clergy with social support scores at or above the median more frequently indicated that being transparent and vulnerable is a means by which they establish and maintain close, supportive relationships with others.


Originally published in Pastoral Psychology. 62:843-857. Doi: 10.1007/s11089-012-0473-9.

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