Introducing The Basic Psycho-Trauma Healing Skills Course
Provided by the Psycho-Spiritual Institute of the Lux Terra Leadership Foundation for Professionals and Volunteers
Traumatic Experiences and Trauma Victims in Nigeria
The Northern and Middle belt regions of Nigeria have for several years been experiencing outbreaks of high intensity violent conflicts, resulting in the death of thousands and displacement of millions of people. In recent times these violent conflicts have extended to other parts of the country – the Southwest, the Southeast and the Southsouth. Many of the persons who are direct or indirect victims and/or survivors of the Boko Haram insurgency, the herdsmen banditry, the sporadic inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts, and the widespread kidnapping for ransom and sundry criminality across the length and breadth of this country, have lived through extremely traumatic experiences. Children have watched their fathers hacked to death or their mothers savagely raped in their presence. Many survivors have lost everything overnight – including their family members, their sources of livelihood, their homes and properties, and they are suddenly thrown into abject poverty and destitution. Some have lost limbs and are now living with one disability or the other. Others have been raped or have endured untold physical torture and psychological abuse. Indeed, the majority of Nigerians have been living through circumstances that are a moral equivalence of war!
In addition to the escalating violence all over the country in the last few years, is the phenomenon of widespread substance abuse, especially among our youths all over the country, including students of secondary schools and tertiary institutions. Many young people are becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, which are in turn increasing the level of criminality in the society. We are also witnessing an increasing level of family dysfunction, domestic violence, marital breakdown and divorce, which often leave the offspring of the marriages – the children, in great distress. This is apart from the fact that the majority of those whose marriages collapse irretrievably, do sustain deep emotional wounds, that require psychological support towards healing and wellbeing. To compound all the already bad situation outlined above, we may add the very high rate of unemployment, including graduate unemployment, and the resultant extreme poverty and destitution that many Nigerian individuals and families are facing today.
Unfortunately, we live in a country where mental health awareness, even among the educated segment of the population is very low indeed. Generally, across the country, the Nigerian people and our governments are yet to gain sufficient awareness that mental health care needs to be provided for in the same way as we provide for physical health care. Thus, until a disturbed person degenerates into a full-blown psychiatric case, requiring to be detained in a psychiatric hospital, we often do not recognize that there is a health challenge that needs urgent attention. Sadly, until people strip and parade the streets naked, we often do not give their mental health issues any serious attention. We often tell ourselves that we do not have mental illness in our families, so even when we notice that a relation is disturbed, we sometimes blame it on demons, and go from one “man of God” to the other or from one herbalist to the other, seeking for deliverance and healing of the sick family member, but further traumatizing the sick person with physical abuse and cruel torture, whereas in many cases what the suffering person requires is psychological care and support, such as trauma counselling for persons that have experienced or witnessed tragic events which have rendered them helpless or overwhelmed their coping skills. Though we have thousands of graduates of psychology from our universities, the majority of these are not engaged in the counselling enterprise. Well trained and practicing specialist trauma counsellors are very few in Nigeria, whereas tens of millions of our countrymen and women as well as children are daily experiencing tragic events that overwhelm their capacity to cope, and therefore leaving them traumatized. These survivors of the many tragic events that have become a daily occurrence in our society, have often been abandoned to their own resources.
Men are told to behave like men and are often not allowed to cry or show deep, profound emotions of pain and distress. The women can often cry out their pain, but soon after, they are told to endure their painful condition – such as ongoing domestic violence – and simply move on with life. Very little or no psychological support is available for these victims and survivors. Unfortunately, without undergoing a process of healing through a measure of psychological first aid and some measure of ongoing trauma healing, the victims and witnesses of violence and other tragic events in our society, are prone to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often expressed in a range of further mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, drug addiction, and violent or aggressive behaviours
LUX TERRA’S CRITICAL IINTERVENTION
At Lux Terra we have long seen the grave need for professionals and volunteers who currently work with victims of violent conflicts and other tragic occurrences, to be trained in trauma healing, to enable them support affected persons better, and to facilitate healing of their emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds. This we believe will mitigate the cycle of violence and multi-generational trauma that often occur when victims of violent conflicts and other tragic events do not receive adequate psycho-spiritual support. Some of those who have worked closely with victims of violence in all the crisis prone areas of our country, including Emergency Relief workers, Health Workers, Social Workers, Security Agents, Religious leaders, Community leaders, as well as Volunteers, can themselves often become overwhelmed by the violence they have witnessed, and themselves become traumatized. This is known as Secondary or Vicarious Trauma. Adequate training on the dynamics of Psycho-trauma healing and trauma resilience, will help such professionals and volunteers develop some of the skills and mechanisms required to cope under such difficult or emotionally taxing situations.
This is why Lux Terra, under the aegis of its Psycho-Spiritual Institute, has over the last six years been investing in training a large pool of counsellors who would provide post-trauma and post-emergency counselling services to victims and witnesses of violence. We, in partnership with the Department of Psychology, Nasarawa State University, and with the support of the functionaries of the Nigerian Psychological Association, have trained over 320 professionals and volunteers, since 2015 when this programme started. Beneficiaries include doctors and nurses, psychologists, social workers, priests and religious, pastors and imams, school counselors and teachers, functionaries of emergency relief and disaster management agencies, non-governmental organisations, security agencies, community leaders, and sundry volunteers, especially those who help at internally displaced people’s camps. Each group of course participants have been taken through a one-week intensive in-class training on basic skills for trauma counselling, to enable them provide psychological first aid and primary trauma healing services to traumatized persons in their areas of operation. They have also been trained in the modalities for referral services, so they know how to refer serious cases to better trained and licensed professionals.
After the in-class training exposure, we have a 6 weeks’ period of supervised practical exercises in psychosocial land psychospiritual trauma counselling in their various locations, where they put into practice the skills they learned from the in-class training. Course participants who successfully complete the week-long intensive in-class trainings and the 6 weeks supervised practical exposures in trauma counseling, are presented to the Nasarawa State University for the award of a University Certificate in Psycho-Trauma Healing Skills. The plan is to scale up and advance this training programme to the level of a University “Diploma” in Psycho-Trauma Counselling for all categories of Professionals and Volunteers engaged in the Psychosocial and psychospiritual healing enterprise.
The basic trauma healing course include the following modules:
- Psycho-Trauma Awareness and Trauma Healing
- Typologies of Psycho-Trauma, viz: Disaster Trauma, Inter-personal Trauma, Combat Trauma, Sexual Assault or Rape, Domestic Violence, etc.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Multi-Generational, Collective and Vicarious Trauma
- The Neurophysiology of Trauma (and the Mind-Body relationship)
- Assessment and Diagnosis of Psycho-Trauma
- Paradox of Psycho-Trauma Resilience & Trauma Devastation
- Emotional Intelligence in Trauma Resilience Building
- Culture, Faith and Spirituality in Trauma Healing and Trauma Resilience
- The Place of Forgiveness in Trauma Healing and Trauma Resilience
- Principles and Practice of Psychological First Aid
- Listening and Trauma Related Communication Skills
- Mindfulness, Empathy and Compassion in Trauma Healing
- The Role of Justice and Legal Interventions in Trauma Recovery
- Use of Visual Art, Drama, Storytelling, Music and Dance in Trauma Healing
- Ethics in Trauma Counselling
- Introduction to Record-keeping and Information Management in Trauma Counselling
- Prof. A. Zamani, Professor of Clinical Psychology, former President, Nigerian
Psychological Association, and Consultant for the training programme
- Prof. F. Anumah, Dean, College of Health Sciences, University of Abuja
- Prof. Z. Dagona, Clinical Psychologist, University of Jos
- Prof. H. Karick, Clinical Psychologist, University of Jos
- Dr. S. Alhassan, Head, Dept. of Psychology, Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
- Dr. A. Grillo, Clinical Psychologist, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation
- Dr. R. Ehusani, Psychological Researcher, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation
- Mrs. F. Nwachukwu, Psychologist, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation
- Dr. J. Nwosu, Public Health Specialist, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation
- Mr. R. Okeke, Anthropologist, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation
- Rev. Dr. G. Ehusani, Executive Director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation