Online proceedings for the IRCT General Assembly and 10th International Scientific Symposium - Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation

Time: 12:10 to 12:30 Download Presentation

Building community and sharing knowledge from the mental health field: Healing from torture in the face of ongoing obstacles

Presenter(s) and co-author(s): Ms. Dawn Stary ( Survivors of Torture International - United States of America ), Ms. Erika Hess ( Survivors of Torture International - United States of America )


This oral presentation will investigate the impact community-based group therapy can have on asylum seekers and refugees who have endured torture in their home countries, and who continue to face obstacles to healing in the United States. Torture survivors, despite living under safer conditions in San Diego, continue to endure hurdles that discourage healing and limit their ability to recover from symptoms resulting from torture. Survivors report ongoing stressors due to systemic barriers in the United States, acculturation concerns, continued fear for loved ones remaining in their home countries, and exposure to ongoing unrest and violence through media coverage.


In the face of these ongoing stressors, survivors continue to heal and begin enacting their preferred lives. The presenters wondered: How do survivors heal in the face of these many obstacles? And what is the role of community and group practices? The community-based group method employed by the authors involves:

  1. Collecting narratives and establishing group goals and activities with the direct input from survivors; and
  2. Connecting with a community of survivors, and others from the wider community.

The authors will provide comprehensive information on this method as well as specific examples from a women's group, and a healing club offered at Survivors of Torture, International. These groups include the voices and input of survivors from diverse backgrounds as well as contributions from the wider community (such as interpreters, staff, volunteers, and community members).


The presenters will share client-based feedback and outcome measures that provide evidence that community- based group practices with diverse torture survivor communities can be an effective model. And that this model allows survivors to manage and overcome mental health concerns even while facing ongoing stressors from the environment in which they live.

Funding & No Conflicts Declaration

The authors are employed by and contracted with Survivors of Torture, International. No additional funding beyond salary is necessary for this project.

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