Fundamental Image Theory: An Integrated Model of Trauma

Cassandra K. Sieg, George Fox University


Historically, trauma theory and intervention has focused on “actual or threatened death or serious injury” (DSM-IV; APA, 1994). More recently, the field has broadened its consideration to a range of trauma and stressor related disorders, including perpetration induced traumautic stress (PITS; MacNair, 2015). Violence perpetration has negative implications on a personal, interpersonal, and group level, but a review of the literature reveals a significant gap in our understanding of perpetration-induced traumatic stress, including 2 fundamental questions: how does perpetrating violence cause trauma, and how can we treat this trauma? None of the existing psychological models adequately answer the first question, limiting their ability to effectively address the second. Existing literature does reveal that despite the diversity in triggering events and contextual factors, post-trauma symptoms remain remarkably similar between PITS and traditional PTSD, indicating a common-factor scheme for trauma.

This dissertation introduces Fundamental Image Theory (FIT), a new theory to address the gap in conceptualizing trauma and identify common factors across traumatic stressors. It proposes that the common element of trauma is its disruption of the fundamental design God enacted when creating humans: the imago dei. FIT integrates Biblical theology and psychological science to provide a model for healthy human functioning that is sustained through meeting a set of essential needs derived from the imago dei (McMinn & Campbell, 2007). FIT explains how trauma interferes with meeting these essential needs and disrupts healthy functioning as result. The model is then applied specifically to PITS to provide guidance for treating the disorder.