Jamie D. Aten, Ph.D.

Dr. Arthur P. Rech and Mrs. Jean May Rech Associate Professor of Psychology; Founder & Executive Director of The Humanitarian Disaster Institute and Disaster Ministry Conference
On Faculty since 2010

Office: BGC M250
Phone: (630)752-5609


Ph.D., Counseling Psychology, Indiana State University, 2005

Pre-Doctoral Internship in Clinical Psychology, Chicago Area Christian Training Consortium, 2005

M.S., Counseling Psychology, Indiana State University, 2001

B.S., Psychology, Indiana State University, 1999

About Jamie D. Aten

Dr. Jamie Aten is a disaster psychologist and disaster ministry expert. He helps others navigate mass, humanitarian, and personal disasters with faith and resilience.

He doesn’t just study disasters—he has survived disasters.

Jamie got his start helping others amidst disasters after Hurricane Katrina struck the South Mississippi community he had just moved to six days before landfall.

Eight years later he was diagnosed with late-stage cancer.

Now in remission he shares his disaster research and cancer story with scientific and spiritual insights, helping others make meaning of their suffering and discover a way forward.

In 2016 he received the FEMA Community Preparedness Champion Award at the White House. He was also awarded the 2010 American Psychological Association Division 36 (Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality) Early Career Award.

Courses Taught

  • PSYC 701 Foundations of Integration
  • PSYC 731 Spirituality I
  • PSYC 761-764 Research Lab
  • PSYC 893 Advanced Topics in Clinical Psychology:  Disaster Mental Health


He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, the country’s first faith-based academic disaster research center. He also leads HDI’s Religion/Spirituality and Psychology in Disasters Lab (RAPID Lab).

Most of his research focuses on how people make meaning, relate to God, and grow (spiritually and emotionally) after disasters. He also studies the role of positive psychology in church life amid disasters. More recently, he has begun studying virtues like humility and fortitude in disaster and humanitarian contexts.

His psychology of religion/spirituality and disaster research has been supported by over $6 million in grant funding.

Disaster and humanitarian resources informed by his research have been adopted and utilized by World Relief, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Chicago Department of Public Health, and many other organizations around the globe. 



Dr. Aten is the co-editor and co-author of seven academic books, including two American Psychological Association Books bestsellers. The following are his latest titles.

SOP for Trauma coverDMH CoverPsych of Religion for Clinicians cover


Research Articles

Jamie has written over 100 scholarly peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and resources. Following are some examples of his work. You can find more here.

*Smigelsky, M., *Gill, A., *Foshager, D., & Aten, J. (in press). 'My heart is in His hands': The lived spiritual experiences of Congolese refugee women survivors of sexual violence. Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community.

*Haynes, W.C., Van Tongeren, D.R., Aten, J., Davis, E. B., Davis, D. E., Hook, J. N., Boan, D., & Johnson, T. (2016). The meaning as a buffer hypothesis: Spiritual meaning attenuates the effect of disaster exposure on posttraumatic stress. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

Aten, J., O'Grady, K., Milstein, G., Boan, D. & *Schruba, A. (2014). Spiritually oriented disaster psychology. Spirituality in Clinical Practice.

Aten, J., Benn, P. R., Hill, P.C., Davis, D. E., & Hook, J. (2012). Predictors of God concept and God control after Hurricane Katrina. Psychology of Rligion and Spirituality.

Aten, J., Topping, S., *Denney, R., & *Bayne, T. (2010). Collaborating with African American churches to overcome disaster mental health disparities: What mental health professionals can learn from Hurrican Katrina. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

*Denotes student co-author

Popular Articles

Dr. Aten is also a disaster columnist for Christianity Today’s (CT) Church Law & Tax. His writing frequently appears in outlets that include The Washington Post, CT, and Psychology Today. Below are a few examples.

Spiritual Advice for Surviving Cancer and Other Disasters. The Washington Post.

Don’t Offer Bumper-Sticker Theology: Five Simple Ways to Help After the Paris Attacks. The Washington Post.

Before Flooding Louisiana with ‘Help,’ Read This. Religion News Service.

What Kind of Faith Helped People Survive Hurricane Katrina? Christianity Today.

How Churches Can Help without Hurting after Super Typhoon Haiyan. Christianity Today.


He is also regularly cited or interviewed by news outlets like CBS News, Fox News TV, Yahoo! News, Moody Radio, Christianity Today, and Religion News Service.  Some examples include:

Where’s God Amidst Disaster (Fox TV News)

How to Cope After Sandy Hook (Yahoo! News)

Dealing with Disaster (Moody Radio)

How to Help After Disasters (InTouch Magazine)


Dr. Aten founded the Disaster Ministry Conference (DMC) in 2013. The DMC is a national conference that is quickly turning into a global event.

In addition to speaking at the DMC each year, he is a sought after keynote, plenary, and workshop speaker.

He regularly speaks at conferences, churches, and college campuses across the United States and internationally, such as: The GC2 Summit, University of Cambridge, Georgia State University’s Center for the Study of Stress, Trauma, and Resilience, and Accord Network Disaster Summit.

Examples of some upcoming places where you can find Jamie speaking include: Christian Association for Psychological Studies Convention, Fred Hutch Research Cancer Center, and Evangelical Press Association Convention.

You can watch a brief talk of Jamie sharing lessons on cultivating faith and resilience amidst personal disasters.

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