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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Project: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Carolyn McAllister


When an individual attempts to leave a high control religious group like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are often disfellowshipped or disassociated, and met with complete ostracism from their families as well as members of the religion. Currently, there is limited research available about the effects of these disfellowshipping practices used by Jehovah’s Witnesses on those experiencing them. This research project attempted to explore the challenges faced by baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses and their transition as disfellowshipped individuals facing familial and religious ostracism. This project examined the coping strategies utilized by disfellowshipped members to combat this ostracism and its effects.

This study is exploratory and qualitative in design utilizing a demographic data questionnaire and semi-structured interviews from eleven former disfellowshipped or disassociated Jehovah’s Witnesses. Descriptive statistics were utilized to compare responses for demographic data. The constant comparative analysis method was also used to analyze the interview data into themes. Themes that were revealed through the analysis included ostracism, challenges, coping skills, and spirituality.

The findings of this study revealed the majority of participants experienced ostracism from their families and social systems. The study also found that participants faced a number of different challenges due to their disfellowshipping including mental health challenges, developing new social systems, and finding competent mental health therapists. Another finding from the study were the participant’s different coping skills and ways they overcame the challenges as a result of their disfellowshipping or disassociation. The findings of this study are significant due to the lack of research available on this topic. This study improves resources for social workers to better provide services for this population at a micro level. Implications for social work practice include expanding upon the lack of research to improve resources, assessment, and intake forms.