Though violence in Iraq has greatly diminished since the peak of the recent war, greatly traumatic events still take place on a regular basis and many Iraqis are left with not only physical, but emotional scars and remain in need of assistance. Unfortunately, the difficulty in securing modern medicine and healthcare is separated by a magnitude of ease in comparison to locating a properly trained psychotherapist. Yet with the efforts of a team from Switzerland’s Zurich University, and the power of the Internet, many suffering Iraqis are finding that therapy is not entirely out of reach.
Employing an approach called “Interapy,” the team accepts requests from Iraqis who have been subjected to traumatic events and for whom therapy might prove beneficial (those with symptoms of schizophrenia or who exhibit a high potential for suicide are screened at the beginning of the process to ensure suitability). The people are then guided through a series of writing assignments, in which they describe, confront, consider from different angles, and seek closure for, the event or events in question. The ability to complete these tasks in a safe place from their homes helps to foster a nurturing environment as the problem of locating trained psychotherapists locally is exacerbated by an Arab stigmatization of the field as well as those who seek its benefits. Similarly, the anonymity of the medium allows many with taboo experiences such as rape or molestation to more comfortably learn to cope.
The Zurich team has reported that fifteen Iraqis have graduated from the program and are reporting and exhibiting signs of recovery and overall improvement. With an eye to other grief- and terror-stricken areas of the world with poor access to mental health professionals, the team remains dedicated to refining and perfecting the Interapy technique, that it might improve the lives of many others.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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