The Projects

Where
Switzerland
Period
January 2015 - December 2015
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Switzerland

Switzerland: Group Therapy for Survivors of Torture and War

The Context

Over the past few decades, Switzerland has become home to a large Balkan, Asian and African population. Many of them originally came seeking protection.

Most of these migrants present physical and psychological sequels which often leave them in a fragile condition, both individually and socially.

Integration in the host country is always a difficult process, and recovering from traumatic experiences takes a long time and requires continuous professional support.

Our Project

This project is funded by Fondation d’Harcourt, the Swiss Red Cross, Pro-Victimis, the Vallese Public Health system and Lancaster Foundation. Its objectives are (1) to contribute to the creation of a safe place/community, (2) to facilitate the sharing of experiences and emotions among war and torture victims and (3) to value their positive resources and skills in order to help them regain their dignity.

The project targets mainly migrant women, whose isolation tends to make them suffer the most. It is managed and supervised by Dr. Lucia Gonzo, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and constitutes an alternative intervention to individual therapies.

Groups of 5-20 patients are organized among different therapeutic sessions managed by a multidisciplinary team of a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a physiotherapist. Sessions allow patients to establish relationships and regain confidence in others. A specific session on physiotherapy is also included to help patients rebuilding their body-mind link.

The project places a strong emphasis on each individual’s resources. It also stresses the importance of taking into account the family and community contexts along with the social, cultural and health aspects. As in all of our projects, the evaluation component of each therapy group is closely monitored.

Our Partner

Appartenances Association (Lausanne, Switzerland)

Our Activities

Mothers and Children Group (6-8 people):
Migrant women whose living conditions are insecure or unstable get together, accompanied by their preschool children (aged 1-5). By exchanging learning experiences with other women, participants develop greater self-confidence and increase their power over their own lives. Contemporarily, children are offered psychosocial activities.

Bosnian Women Group (6-8 people):
Regular monthly meetings with a psychotherapist are organized for Bosnian women traumatized by war. A topic is selected for each meeting by either the participants or the psychotherapist. The group’s main objective is to allow migrant women to acquire the necessary tools to develop their autonomy. Its approach places value on the participants’ personal resources, and grants them the opportunity to regain self-confidence by creating social bonds.

Therapeutic Group for Victims of Political Violence – Diwan (10-12 people)
This is weekly group that meets in a safe environment where participants can share their traumatic experiences. Particular attention is paid to the enhancement of participants’ resources, the development of their various means of expression and to their wellbeing. In Diwan sessions clinicians mainly analyze group dynamics.

Yoga Group (3-6 women):
The group’s objective is to help women suffering from chronic and psychosomatic problems to become more autonomous and able to manage their stress and concentration through psychotherapeutic methods. Methods include Yoga, Qi Gong, Tai-Chi and mediation.

Body Group for Migrant Women (6-12 people):
These monthly therapeutic sessions help participants face problems such as insomnia, respiratory issues, muscular tension and chronic pains. A day out is included in the program to reestablish contact with nature.

Mindfulness Group (5-9 people):
This group’s objective is to reduce stress and manage symptoms of anxiety and depression through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness has to do with the unconditional acceptance of the emotional and physical status that is key to managing depression in the long term.

Ethno-psychiatric Inspiration Session:
The objective here is to identify and take into account all the socio-cultural dimensions of a person in order to offer a more adequate cure. A psychiatrist, psychologists and psychotherapist meet with each member regularly, following the ethno-psychiatric methodology.