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Expecting Trauma: PTC-UK on time dimensions of Gaza's Mental Health clinical practice



Clincial practise around the treatment of individuals and communities who have experienced trauma is not usually focused on preparing them for more.


For the Palestine Trauma Center team in Gaza, however, the best way of dealing with trauma is by talking about its ineviable return. This, in fact, is what most of the center's programmes are geared toward.


R4T PI Heather Flowe and Partner Coordinator Nora Parr met with PTC-UK, an R4T partner, on Nov 24, and Skpyed in with the councelling team in Gaza city. It was the end of a rough week in Gaza. Twenty-one had been killed by mosly aerial bombardment, including a family of eight.We naively asked: what has the center been doing to cope with the effects fo the bombardments? The answer, of course, was that the programs and projects already underway are designed to have already  helped children and families to cope with the inevitable return of violence. 



The PTC team in Gaza stands by the screen where they meet and share clinical ideas and resources with the UK team.


In the "Friday of Joy" intiative, PTC-UK project supervisor Dr Mohamed Al-tawil UK board of trustees chairman David Harrold explained that several elments come together. First, it is an event meant to bring parents and young children together, fostering wider networks of relationship between families as well. The center creates games, activities, and audience-driven pantomimies in the streets, in areas that are safe but which may have been marked as sites of trauma (where buildings had been damaged by air strikes etc). This reclaims and re-marks the neighbourhood. 


Dances and games release tension from the body, and parents are asked to foster play with their kids as play is the most natural self- healing method for a child. In play children link the real world to their own inner mental world, which empowers them to transform the world according to their own needs and desires, something that often gets forgotten about in the wider context of constant stress and worry. So, street theatre and story-telling can set that in motion and bring play back into the homes of families.


The theatrical element stages a common problem. Harrold gave the example of nightmares. A six foot plush cartoon charachter does not want to go to school because it has had nightmares. Its parents have had no success in convincing the character to go--its up to the kids.Each gets a turn in telling the character why they should go to school, why they should not worry about, or even defeat the nightmares. Kids become the experts, explaining to the character and each other what to do and how to react. Nightmares are de-stigmatized, are talked about in the open streets with the community, and strategies are built to discuss and cope with an inevitable consequence of the context of violence. 


Tune in for more from Mohamed and David, on the interventions the team is making, and innovations in clinical practice from PTC.


Also check out PTC-UK's website, or read Dr Al-Tawil's most recent article on the development of alternative indicators for PTSD based on research carried out at the center.


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