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Online self-treatment therapy for traumatized refugees enhances resilience

Published: 01st November 2021 Last updated: 01st November 2021

Digital self-help psychosocial support by mobile phones and adapted to the person by data technique, alleviates traumas of refugees and contributes to enhanced socio-economic resilience. The therapy is more effective than livelihood support. PhD candidate Selam Kidane studied hundreds of cases of Eritrean and Ugandan refugees in these countries and the results after treatment by an online program called Trust (Trauma Recovery Understanding Self-Help Therapy), which she developed.

Development of Trauma Recovery Understanding Self Help Therapy (TRUST)

The study finds that the treatment TRUST, designed as a low-cost self-help intervention, has significant impact on socio-economic resilience. It has more effect than social protection support in the form of cash transfers, in-kind support or livelihood support. The background to the study was the observation that Eritrean refugees take very high risks, often life threatening, during their search for a safe heaven. High levels of traumatic stress can be a factor that influences refugee decision-making and causes people to become oversensitive to the presence of risk and danger and respond with exaggerated response. 

Unavailability of health workers
The therapy took into account the nature of the context and utilizing the available communication channels – such as the mobile phones, that were in high use and trusted. The utilization of these communication channels was intended to overcome the unavailability of mental health workers to provide support. Based on techniques from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), TRUST was designed with the objective of offering self-help support. 
For refugees in highly traumatized populations, residing in settings where there are limited, if any, resources, this treatment is highly effective and can be used in remote settings with little cost.

Note for the press
Selam Kidane will defend her PhD dissertation on November 5, 13.30 hours in the Auditorium with live stream. The title is: ‘Trauma, Collective Trauma and Refugee Trajectories in the Digital Era.’ For more information, you can contact Tineke Bennema, science editor, 013-4668998.