High-Tech Therapy: Iraqi Victims Consider a Virtual Couch

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 John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Madeleine


    February 23rd, 2009 at 2:48 AM

    What a noble cause this team is pursuing. I wish them the best because i know there are people who have experienced this war who have so many scars that are destined to be open wounds for them for a very long time to come. It is great to know that there are pros out there who care and who are offering their services for the greater good.

  • Matt


    February 23rd, 2009 at 7:29 PM

    I am so glad that there is a sincere human effort to heal the world. Being a victim of war is something most of us have no idea about. Living in constant fear is not the way God intended any of us to lead our lives. God bless these doctors and counsellors for making this world a better place for the Iraqis.

  • Affan Laghari

    Affan Laghari

    February 24th, 2009 at 2:07 AM

    Do you think therapy can do any good to people who literally watch people blown up every now and then. I think for any treatment medical or psychological, you have to first eliminate what’s causing the maladaptive behavior.

    Even if the therapy is successful, it seems to me they have a high chance of going back to their behavioral problems since they are exposed to a very hostile environment.

  • Cole


    February 24th, 2009 at 9:03 AM

    Well I agree with you that the horrible circumstances have to go away but in the meantime I do think that it is great that there are those who are receiving some form of treatment. I cannot eevn imagine how horrible life must be right now for so many Iraquis stuck in this seemingly endless situation so I am hopeful and thankful for those who are trying in some small ways to make things better for those who are still there in that situation. It is not perfect but it is a start.

  • Laura


    February 24th, 2009 at 7:40 PM

    I dont know how effective this kind of therapy will be but someone has to show they care and I am happy that something is being done to eleviate the emotional build up in people of war torn countries like Iraq.

  • Saleem


    February 25th, 2009 at 7:47 PM

    Every sincere effort to reach out and do good will face criticism and opposition. I hope that this one doesnt.

  • Maggie


    February 26th, 2009 at 5:25 AM

    There is so much good that we can do for others and yet when anyone tries to do it they are often shot down as not doing enough. When there are issues that we really can control I am all for jumping in there and making a difference. But there are some things that are beyond our control and so the best that we can do is to jump in there and do what we can to make a positive difference. It may not be the ultimate answer but it is doing something at least.

  • Owen


    February 27th, 2009 at 6:52 AM

    In times when public health is a sordid tale I am glad that some medical fraternity feel differently and act differently. If empathy is not possible sympathy definitely goes a long way.

  • Catatonic Kid

    Catatonic Kid

    February 27th, 2009 at 8:32 PM

    Fascinating! It’s all sitting somewhere at the intersection of culture, compassion and trauma, I guess. No simple place to be, really.

    I’m a writer so I have always wondered about what differences there might be in therapeutic outcomes between therapy via the written word and traditional talk therapies.

    But any trauma intervention is a far better thing for both cultures and people than none whatsoever ‘eh.

  • Kimberley


    February 28th, 2009 at 5:55 AM

    This is a very special thing to do. Not everyone thinks of this. Most of us think in terms of sending medical aid and supplies. Well healing the mind heals a lot more things. I hope someday these countries can move out of avenge and revenge and look at rebuilding the future for their progeny.

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