London – Therapists from different countries have been developing new physiological techniques to help refugees migrating from the Middle East to western countries.
Severe psychiatric illnesses, including complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), developed from traumatic event such as rape, war and torture. Now, a group of professionals across Europe are focusing in treating these diseases, among the hundreds of thousands of people leaving Syria.
Psychiatrists are creating the Intercultural Psychotherapy and Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) as the new refugee-focused methods, a type of therapy first developed by German researchers a decade ago. It was developed for people who have suffered from multiple traumas, particularly those living in refugee camps.
The treatment, administered in six sessions of about an hour each, focuses on clearly documenting the atrocities suffered, ideally in a chronological framework. By emotionally exposing themselves to traumatic memories in a coherent historical narrative, NET helps refugees learn that they don’t have to be afraid of their memories, Katy Robjant, head of therapy services at the Helen Bamber Foundation explained.
“They often say they have been imprisoned, beaten all day long, shot at, or scalded with boiling water. They’ve been treated like beasts.” psychotherapist Aurelia Barbieri, who is working with charity Medecins Sans Frontieres in Sicily, said.
The therapists using Narrative Exposure Therapy work in 14 different languages –including Arabic, Farsi, French, Spanish and Turkish– to help patients deal with psychological issues like cultural alienation, social isolation, anxiety and depression.
An approximate 8,000 refugees are entering Europe per day and the numbers are ascending. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, many of them have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Many countries, churches, civic groups, and individuals are working hard to help them with their physical needs of food, clothing, and a safe shelter, but many of the refuges also struggle to build their lives and overcome trauma associated with the horrors they have been through.
Intercultural Psychotherapy and Narrative Exposure Therapy focus especially on younger migrants coming to Europe. Intercultural Psychotherapy, specifically, do not focus as much on previous experiences, but on dealing with present anxieties and exiting fears. This kind of therapy “focuses on rebuilding psychological resilience.” Aida Alayarian, chief of the Refugee Therapy Centre in London, said.