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Utilising Group Therapy Approaches to Assist Recovery of Torture and Trauma Survivors

Clinical Master Class Evening held on 15 October 2013

These recorded lectures will be available to be viewed for a small fee at Owl Talks Lectures.

Utilising Group Therapy Approaches to Assist Recovery of Torture and Trauma Survivors: From Practice to Research

Dr Boris Drozdek, MD, MA

Dr Boris Drozdek

Group psychotherapy counteracts the isolating effects of interpersonal trauma and enables survivors to connect with sources of resilience within themselves and others. Throughout the years, this approach has been mostly researched in the populations of Vietnam veterans and female survivors of sexual abuse and it was well supported by positive controlled trials. However, the nature of the evidence from research evaluating group techniques can still be considered as preliminary. Studies examining the outcomes of group therapy with torture survivors among asylum seekers and refugees are very scarce.

In this clinical master class evening presentation different modalities of the specific trauma-focus group treatment model for asylum seekers and refugees were presented and discussed. This model is based on a phase-oriented trauma treatment and it incorporates some important adaptations, given the unique needs of asylum seekers and refugees. It is designed to help asylum seekers and refugees work through their traumatic experiences and place them in a life-span developmental perspective. Group psychotherapy is combined with non-verbal therapies (psychomotor therapy, art therapy, and music therapy) and executed within a day-treatment setting.

Recent research suggests that this model is a promising approach for treatment of PTSD among asylum seekers and refugees in industrialized settings both on the short and on longer terms. The results of several studies of this approach were outlined.

Discovering Resilience in the Rhythm of the Body and the Melody of the Music

Chiara Ridolfi

Self-expression through movement and music is utilised as a healing modality in many cultures. In this presentation Chiara Ridolfi described Capoeira Angola (CA), an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines rhythm, dance, and movement, as an effective group intervention for young refugees.

CA groups create a safe environment for young refugees to overcome isolation and adversity, build up resilience through creating a sense of belonging, confidence, strengths and trusting relationships. These concepts speak to young people who have themselves experienced the kind of trauma, losses and deprivation associated with war and other forms of organised violence. Through movement and rhythm, CA has a great ability to transcend cultural boundaries and nationalities. This group intervention provides positive examples of human relationships, and an opportunity for young people to model their own behaviour and develop trust and healthy socialising techniques. The benefits of CA have been systematically evaluated and the initial results are very encouraging.

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