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Chapter 2 - Diaspora Therapists Working in the Earthquake Zone

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 May 2022

Armen Goenjian
Affiliation:
David Geffen School of Medicine; UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress
Alan Steinberg
Affiliation:
UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress
Robert Pynoos
Affiliation:
UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress
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Summary

During the first six months after the earthquake, the diaspora Psychiatric Outreach Program (POP) therapists treated children and adolescents in schools and adults in tents, hospitals, factories, and mobile clinics. Successful implementation of the program depended on careful recruitment and preparation of the therapists and establishing strong working relationships with local partners. Therapists started their rotations in the earthquake zone by first meeting with Health and Education Ministry personnel, then school principals to get their approval to work with teachers and students. Therapists addressed the psychological needs of the principals and teachers before and during the time they worked with the students. Trauma-grief-focused group therapy was provided to students. Those who had severe symptoms were seen individually after the group meetings. Most therapists experienced mild anxiety and depressive symptoms during their tenure. Few were vicariously traumatized and were unable to continue working. The relief work had a positive impact on the professional lives of many who later excelled as educators and therapists. Because of the ongoing shortage of local therapists, a three-year teaching/training program was initiated by POP therapists to prepare qualified local psychotherapists. Graduates who were licensed by the Ministry of Health worked alongside the diaspora therapists in the schools and clinics. The chapter describes lessons learned from our experiences and mistakes.

Type
Chapter
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Lessons Learned in Disaster Mental Health
The Earthquake in Armenia and Beyond
, pp. 9 - 17
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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