How Clinicians should deal with Victims of Torture
According to various reports by Amnesty International, many countries still practice torture, leading to the rising number of those seeking asylum in other countries like the US. In most cases, torture takes place in situations where the perpetrators have immense power over the victims. Over a number of years, many victims of the torture from various countries of the world have immigrated to the United States, seeking asylum from the perpetrators. Psychologists agree that torture survivors undergo immense suffering, requiring the attention of clinicians. Pope & Garcia-Peltoniemiput down some of the methods clinicians can adopt when it comes to dealing with the many torture victims today. They acknowledge the prevalence of the problem in countries like Syria, Iran, Sri-Lanka, Somalia, China, Benin and much more. The people who survive the experience are mostly left with memories that control their lives, requiring that clinicians develop proper skills and understanding when dealing with them.
The article Responding to Victims of Torture: Clinical Issues, Professional Responsibilities, and Useful Resources starts by showing some of the reports proving the existence of torture in more than 30 countries across the world. However, the authors are quick to point out that statistics only indicate some of the extreme and documented cases; torture could be ongoing in many countries. This article focuses on how to deal with torture victims of government repression. Nevertheless, the information can also be relevant when dealing with other forms of torture like child abuse and spouse abuse (2). The article does not seek to come up with a new treatment of the victims, but rather to put down some of the common reactions those clinicians working in this area experience. It goes further in exploring how clinicians can respond to such victims, considering the various backgrounds they may have.
The next section of the paper looks at certain reactions clinicians are likely to develop when dealing with victims of torture. According to Pope & Garcia-Peltoniemi (5), the suffering by the torture, victims do produce certain feelings that may affect the therapists. The therapists are likely to develop certain feelings that may interfere with the provision of services to the victim. This is true, especially when it comes to those clinicians who may be working with torture victims for the first time. Most of them fail to come to terms with the suffering of these victims, leading to the phobic reaction. On the other hand, the clinician may develop an obsessive interest in the torture ordeal, encouraging the victim to give every detail. Both phobic reactions and obsessive interest may work to interfere with the clinician’s ability to deal with the situation. Therefore, such clinicians need to have supervisors irrespective of the qualifications.
This article acknowledges that torture can be used as a form of political repression by an individual or a whole community. This means that most of the torture victims have been part of the political struggle in a given place. Therefore, clinician’s political stand and belief may interfere with the ability to help the victim overcome the torture trauma. The political values of the therapist in relation to those of the victim or of the perpetrator are likely to interfere with professional service. In a situation where there could some conflict of interest, the article advocates for referral services. For instance, a straight clinician may decide to refer the gay or lesbian client to other professionals with the same sexual orientation and understanding (Cathcart, Berger &Knazan 180).
On the same note, certain torture victims live in fear of being followed or even assassination by the perpetrators. In such cases, it is important for a clinician to find out the validity of the fear and take necessary precautions. For example, most of the torture victims in the US may lack refugee or immigrant status, something that contributes to fear of deportation to their countries of origin. The clinician should be able to handle the fear in a manner that does not interfere with the healing process. At the same, the fear in the victim is likely to evoke fear in the clinician, because of the dangers that may take place. This means that clinicians may fear for their lives for dealing with the torture victim. The accounts of what torture victims go through are likely to cause certain negative effects on the clinicians like depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of these problems lead to things like nightmares and even negative thoughts. Therefore, clinicians working with many victims need to work out a schedule that allows them to avoid burnout (Pope, Butcher &Seelen 12).
Another section is on factors required in providing services to the victims. The authors put some of the general clinical issues that every professional clinician should have in order to be effective in the sector. Trust is the first point that the article puts forth. It is important to note that torture victims have undergone painful experiences in the past, some of which will remain with them for long. Therefore, the trust between the clinician and the victim remains to be an important factor when it comes to any attempt at helping the situation.
Cultural factors remain to be very important in all psychological and counseling services. Torture victims also require proper analysis of some of the cultural factors that may influence the healing and therapeutic process. These factors also influence the manner in which the victim would express the torture ordeal. For instance, it could be that the cultural background of the victim does not allow open sharing of the experiences because they are perceived to be shameful. Such a person would not be willing to disclose some of the experiences by the perpetrators. According to this psychological research article, the authors encourage clinicians to be sensitive to the cultural backgrounds of the torture victims. Clinicians should try to understand and embrace victims’ culture as theirs in order to have a common ground. In most cases, such victims undergo serious challenges in their current residences, including torture, violence, and prejudice. Therefore, the clinicians have the responsibility to understand relevant cultural factors in order to develop the therapeutic relationship (Agger& Jensen 116).
The use of assessment tools on the torture victims is another issue that Pope and Garcia-Peltoniemi put down in their article. Clinicians should be careful when using these tools because they may evoke some torture memories on the victims. Some victims may complain of being used as research objects in the process of assessment. On the same note, some of the standard practices may seem no in line with victims’ cultures, proving to invade their privacy in the process. The clinician should ensure that the standard assessment method used factor the cultural differences, the level of education and the language (Weschler 23).
This article concludes by noting certain aspects of the healing process that clinicians should monitor the process. Personal testimony is one of the proper means of the helping out in the healing process. The article concludes by acknowledging some other methods that help in overcoming torture. The declaration of the human right by the United Nations should help in promoting rights and freedoms of all people across the world, ensuring that appropriate measures are in place for freedom.
Agger, I. & Jensen, B.“Testimony as ritual and evidence in psychotherapy for political
refugees.”Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3 (1990), 100-129.
Cathcart, L., Berger, P. &Knazan, B. “Medical examination of torture victims applying for
refugee status.”Canadian Medical Association Journal, 122 (1989), 189-195.
Pope, K.S., Butcher, J.N., &Seelen, J. “MMPI, MMPI-2, &MMPI-A in Court: A Practical
Guide for Expert Witnesses and Attorneys,” Second Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2000.
Pope, Kenneth &Garcia-Peltoniemi, Rosa. Responding to Victims of Torture: Clinical Issues,
Professional Responsibilities, and Useful Resources. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, 22 (4), 269-276.
Weschler, L. Miracle, a universe: Settling accounts with torturers. New York: Pantheon,