Enhancing Trauma Healing Through Support Structures: Focus on the Badly Exploited and Trafficked Persons

Presented by William Omondi, the Senior Counselor of Koinonia Community during the FBO and CSO counter human trafficking symposium 22nd to 24th November 2011


Definition of terms

Healing: This is seeking intervention for an imbalance in order to attain a balance. Holistic healing entails seeking means of coping with both psychological and physical challenges.
Exploited persons: The term exploitation positively denotes putting resources into proper use. However, since the anti-slavery crusade of the 1850s, the term developed negative connotations.
Trauma: This is an overwhelming event outside the normal range of human experiences. Traumatic events weaken the defence mechanisms of an affected person to the point where they become extremely fearful and learn to be helpless.
Types of trauma
Physical Trauma: This entails bodily injury caused by an external force that threatens the physical integrity of a person.
Psychological trauma: This involves trauma that affects a person’s ability to process their thoughts in decision making, problem solving and memory. It also affects the person’s emotional balance.
Factors that determine the impact of trauma
The meaning the survivor attaches to the event.
  • Age
  • Support systems
  • Prior traumatic event and how it was resolved
  • Intensity of the trauma
  • Time lapse between the time of experience and the interventions undertaken
  • Gender
  • Levels of attachment to the traumatized person or object of trauma
  • Personality of the affected person
Experiences of exploited persons
  • Torture: Torture means subjection to extended and repeated physical and psychological pain aimed at causing injury to a person’s body and discrediting her mental integrity.
  • The person may in this case be subjected to violence in terms of beatings and rape.
  • They may also be forced to renounce their identity through humiliation
  • Illegal confinement: The person may be confined from accessing their significant others, important events and from developing herself.
  • Loss: The person loses contact with significant others, their valuable items and their social environment.
  • Suffering: The person may also face hardships like deprivation of food, extreme room temperatures and a constant state of fear.
Emotional Effects of traumatic experiences
  • Antipathy: trauma can also manifest itself in the feeling of disgust of self. For instance, a victim of sexual abuse may feel disgust for developing intimate relations or blood
  • Mortal fear: The person may live in constant fear of dying. They may encounter phobic attacks in form nightmares and insomnia.
  • Guilt: The person may feel guilty of having renounced their identity, violently retaliated to provocation.
  • Guilt manifest in the form of self-blame which could imply that the person is trying to assert control of their destiny and self-defence against overwhelming emotions.
  • Bereavement: unmitigated grief may lead to inability to develop affective relations with people.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Intrusive Symptoms
  • Manifestations
  • Recurrent, intrusive and distressing recollection of the event i.e images, thoughts and perceptions.
  • Recurrent distressing dreams
  • Reliving the experiences i.e hallucinations and flashback episodes of the event i.e anger, hurt and pain.
  • Intense psychological distress that resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
  • A sense of foreshortened future.

Numbing Response

  • Entails increased avoidance of feelings associated with the trauma
  • Manifestations
  • Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma.
  • Efforts to avoid activities, places, people that allow remembrance of the trauma.
  • Reduced participation or interest in significant activities.
  • Reduced participation or interest in significant activities.
  • Inability to develop relationship whereby they no longer have intimate feelings.
  • Psychogenic amnesia: Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma.
  • Inability to develop relationship whereby they no longer have intimate feelings.
  • Psychogenic amnesia: Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma.
Hyper Arousal
  • This involves continual symptoms which were latent before.
  • Manifestations
  • Irritability or outburst of anger
  • Difficulties in concentration
  • Problems in memory
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Insomnia

Interventions of PTSD

1. Psychological Debriefing
This is a group session of the survivors of traumatic experiences with the aim of developing better coping mechanisms after gaining an in-depth understanding of the traumatic event.
N/B: Debriefing is not a panacea to treating trauma but a method of helping the survivor to cope with the situation.
Objectives of psychological  debriefing
  • To ventilate emotions
  • To promote cognitive reorganization
  • To mobilize resources to offer support
  • To identify support systems
Where psychological debriefing is done
  • In an environment that is conducive from distraction.
  • N/B: It is supposed to be done within 24/72 hours after occurrence.
  • It lasts for 2-8 hours depending on the size of the group.
The How of psychological debriefing
  • The participants should sit in a circle
  • Counselors sitting in the opposite to each other should facilitate the session.

The stages of psychological debriefing

  • Introduction (introduction and explanation on reasons for gathering, assurance of confidentiality and sensitization)
  • Narrative phase
  • Thought phase
  • Education phase
  • Future planning
  • Disengagement phase
  • Emotional reaction phase

2. Outreach to the survivors

  • A team of psycho-social caregivers integrate the efforts through:
  • Intensive family visits
  • Giving information on coping mechanisms
  • Inclusion of social support structure like religious institutions and support groups
  • Provision of a conducive environment for discussing the challenges of coping with the situation.

3. Psycho-social care

  • Identifying individuals with high predispositions to vulnerabilities for specialized interventions.
  • The immediate impact phase (loss, normalizing experiences)
  • Visiting the scene of trauma





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