Thursday, September 25, 2008

Round Table discussion on “Using Testimony as a psychotherapeutic tool”

Deva International Society for child care (DISCC), Varanasi India, People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), Varanasi India and Rehabilitation and Research centre for the torture victim (RCT), Copenhagen, Denmark jointly organize Round Table discussion on “Using Testimony as a psychotherapeutic tool” on 25th September, 2008 at 9:45 am in Diamond Hotel Varanasi.

Discussion starts with the candle lighting by Prof. K.C Gurnani M.D (Psychiatry) Head, Department of Psychiatry, S.N College, Dr. Inger Agger consultant Rehabilitation and Research centre for the torture victim (RCT), Copenhagen, Denmark.

Dr. Inger presents the testimonial method that Testimony therapy has been used for survivors of human rights violations in different parts of the world during the last 25 years starting in Chile, Latin America. By giving testimony about the torture - telling “the self suffering – story” - to an empathic listener who records the story, the survivor can heal his or her trauma and also use the testimony document in the struggle for justice. In this way “the private pain becomes political” and the survivor is empowered.

Steps in testimony THERAPY:
1. During two sessions, the survivor tells the story of his or her suffering to a community worker or human rights defender who helps the survivor remember the suffering and feel the emotions at that time and in the present. One community worker acts as the interviewer while the other acts as a note-taker. Together with the survivor they create a coherent story about the human rights violations suffered by the survivor.
2. In the beginning of the second session, the story is read out in front of the survivor as an autobiography and corrections are made if the survivor wants to add or change something in the story.
3. At the end of each session, the interviewers and the survivor sit for ten minutes in a “mindfulness” meditation experience with focus on the awareness of the breath and the thoughts going through the mind.
4. For the third and last session, the testimony is prepared in colorful and attractive paper with the signature of the survivor and the interviewer. An honor ceremony is organized where the testimony is handed over to the survivor. If the survivor agrees this ceremony can be public and the testimonies of several survivors might be handed over on the same occasion. A copy of the testimony will be used for further advocacy with the acceptance of the survivor.
5. The testimonies of survivors can also be used in folk school meetings, community meetings, programs related to human rights, as part of a people’s movement and in workshops for the police to prevent torture.
 Dr. Lenin presents: a lot of political and lawful struggle against police torture and other organized types of violence are happening. However, in the human rights organizations of India resources have been scant for providing short-term psychosocial assistance to survivors suffering from psychological problems. This type of assistance has mostly been provided by trained psychologists or psychiatrists in medical centers. It is, therefore, necessary for the organizations working on the grass-roots level to develop their capacity for this type of brief therapy assistance, which can be carried out by non-professional staff. He himself observes that

 The eyes of all the survivors and their family members were wet after hearing the testimonies and they were feeling very happy and “good from inside”.

 The 18 testimony was sent for the legal advocacy.

 The positive result is now the police is gently behaving with the survivor.
 Survivor come out from the many psychological problem like –Anxiety, nightmares, feeling of guilt this thing was trace out after filling second part of Monitoring & Evaluation.

In the first pilot project 12 Human Rights Defender were trained in PVCHR office from 12th May, 2008 to 23rd May, 2008. The participants thereafter took the testimonies of 23 survivors under the supervision of Dr. Inger Agger. Again in the second phase of pilot project supervision workshop was organized for 12 Human Rights Defender from 17th September, 2008 to 19th September, 2008. A lot of challenges and success came out while using this testimonial therapy with the survivor.

Nearly 30 psychologist, counselor and Psychiatry from Agra, Gorakhpur, Allahabad actively participate in this Round Table discussion.

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