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Civilians trained by American mental health professionals bring healing to traumatized victims of Libya's civil war, Baylor study finds
Date:12/12/2013

aining including lectures and role-playing translated into Arabic and led by Acts of Mercy International staff. The peer-led "Hope Groups" met regularly for 10 weeks with 149 participants in 17 groups of friends and relatives in the camp. The average group size was eight people.

After 10 weeks, members anonymously completed the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist, a 17-item self-report broadly used within the mental health community. The report showed that the groups were helpful, with interaction among members, and most of the civilian leaders said they felt they could successfully train someone else to be a leader.

While prior research has shown that outcomes through mutual help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous are comparable to much more costly professional treatments, use of peer-led groups for war-related trauma in civilians had not been investigated until the Baylor study.

"A lot of times, people think, 'I'm just going to tough it out.' But sometimes, that's just not possible," Stanford said.

While the program's content was simplified, it was challenging for translators unfamiliar with mental health concepts.

But "despite cultural and language differences, there are a lot of universal things that cut across cultures," Stanford said. "In an ideal world, the people would be seeing licensed therapists and getting medications, but this is different. It's simplified, but they do get a dramatic reduction in symptoms."

In the sessions, participants learned about such common symptoms of trauma as depression, sleep problems, anger and guilt. They learned ways to cope with crises and rebuild emotional closeness that had been disrupted by trauma.

For leaders, overseeing groups has "really given them a purpose," Stanford said. "They want to be trained as leaders in towns that have been destroyed and go to other camps and begin training others. That's what you hope for that they'll take ownership of it."'/>"/>

Contact: Terry Goodrich
terry_goodrich@baylor.edu
254-710-3321
Baylor University
Source:Eurekalert

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