Escudo de la República de Colombia

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Narrative exposure therapy could help armed conflict victims

From a series of questions made by a specialist with regards to emotions, thoughts, sensorial and perceptual information, psychosocial focus enables conflict victims to continue with their normal or improved lives.

Bogotá D. C., 16 de septiembre de 2016Agencia de Noticias UN-

Most victims of the armed conflict have post-traumatic stress disorder similar symptoms.

The purpose of the therapy is for the patient to carry out a chronological narrative of his life story.

Narrative exposure therapy was conceived for patients who suffered from sexual abuse.

The research project highlighted studies which took into account the cultural particularities of every context.

Art exhibitions such as: Desenterrar y Hablar: una etnografía estética de la guerra en Colombia play an important role in victim rehabilitation.

The research project focused on practical case research with verified effectiveness.

“The purpose of narrative exposure therapy is for a patient to carry out a chronological narrative of their life story with assistance from his/her therapist,” said Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Psychology M.Sc. María Fernanda Vargas.

With increasing armed, political, social and cultural conflicts, psychology is focusing in trying to understand the impact of war dynamics in the psychological workings of victims and developing effective intervention programs from a psychosocial standpoint. 

In this sense narrative exposure therapy could turn into an important ally to address victims of the Colombian armed conflict. 

According to Vargas the empathy the therapist achieves with the patient is essential for the success of the treatment; so patients develop the capability to relieve their emotions in face of traumatic events from their memories, without losing out on the present. 

In this important to emphasize in a temporal and spatial current context so memories may be organized in a continuous timeline in a reprocessing and re-signifying process of the traumatic events. 

After reviewing numerous databases related to the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for conflict victims Vargas chose practical methods and with verified results with the purpose of adapting them to the Colombian context. 

In ten sessions 

For the Colombian case, Vargas determined that this strategy could be carried out in ten 90 to 120 minute sessions. 

The patient must then have a standard psychological diagnostic with measured post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well to know the symptoms experienced during treatment. 

Furthermore they should emphasize traumatic experiences as these types of events trigger a disorder disarray in memory storage due that rupture in the neuronal network hinders storing the episodes along with other memories. 

For instance, the lifespan may be represented as a string which symbolizes life, time and significant events so they may be addressed and established a relationship with the patient, which may now begin to make a life story in a written document. 

“It is important to re-read previous sessions before each therapy to continue the story where it was at and talk about subsequent traumatic events,” said Vargas. 

The final document is a story with features of an autobiography which should be given to the patient as according to the research this is one of the greatest motivations for patients which carry out treatment so they can read it later and share with other people. 

Using psychology 

The therapy was conceived in 2003 for people who had suffered sexual abuse, had been in a traffic accident or were impacted by a natural disaster, it was later adapted to cases regarding war situations as many people suffer symptoms similar to PTSD. 

 “Achieving positive results from the therapy depends that people in charge know the political context around the conflict. These types of strategies help forgiveness and reconciliation”, said Vargas.

According to Vargas, art exhibitions such as Desenterrar y Hablar: una etnografía estética de la guerra en Colombia (Unbury and talk: An aesthetical ethnography of war in Colombia) currently open at UNal Central Library plays an important role in victim rehabilitation as it contributes to see themselves in a different role of what they had during the conflict. 

For Vargas rebuilding the social fabric is one of the aspects which is most affected as a consequence of the armed conflict. Therefore these exhibitions positively contribute to promoting reconciliation and collective trust.

(Por: Fin/JCMG/DMH/APBL
)
N.° 483

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