Mianyang, Sichuan, China Workshop: Culturally Appropriate Interventions for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder





9th December 2014

This talk was part a 3 day workshop organised by the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS). It was held at the South West University of Science and Technology.  Researchers were invited from around the Asia-Pacific Region.

As a ‘faculty’ member for the 3-day workshop my role was to support the attendees and guide their understanding of research. I also gave a presentation.

In the presentation I described the symptoms of PTSD, our current scientific explanations of these symptoms and how they are often mis-perceived by lay people. Then we discussed evidence based interventions including; Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Narrative Exposure Therapy. I invited debate about the best way to translate these interventions to different cultures with reference to my own work with refugees.

Talk Abstract:

In the aftermath of a disaster high-income countries often struggle to deliver psychological interventions to those that need them. Middle and lower income countries tend to have much greater difficulty because their mental health services are often chronically under-resourced. They may have very few trained clinicians, their people may be unaware or unconvinced of the benefits of psychological intervention and in many cases the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health issues may prevent individuals from seeking help. Instead, traditional healers may be sought and problems attributed to spiritual possession, black magic or ‘going crazy’.

Following a disaster, foreign aid workers may arrive and attempt to deliver psychological interventions. However, it may be difficult for them to determine which approaches will be appropriate, acceptable and effective for the local population. They may not be able to reach the people who need help or their help may be rejected.

In this presentation I suggest that resources would be best invested in developing psychological services in places that are prone to disasters. This would allow the local psychological service to determine the best way of practising so that they can act as a resource if disaster strikes.

I will invite discussion on key issues such as how to fund a psychological service, how to make it sustainable and how to disseminate best practice. I will also talk specifically about my experience of using Narrative Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with refugees in Malaysia who have PTSD.

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