Survivors of human rights violations have a right to treatment and alleviation of their suffering, as recognized by human rights law.
Our responsibility as clinicians is to assist survivors through appropriate therapeutic measures and to empower them in their own efforts to recover.
Our clinical team of psychotherapists, psychologists, complementary therapists and psychiatrists understand the nature of trauma and the impact it has on individuals, family and the next generation. They offer a range of therapeutic activities adapted to the needs of our clients ranging from counselling and psychiatric treatment, to group work and family therapy.
They regularly find innovative solutions to complex problems in which roles are adjusted through case sharing and mutual interaction. The aim is to strengthen survivors’ capacity to cope with the complexities of ordinary everyday life.
Ajkuna* is a 26-year-old female survivor of trafficking for sexual exploitation from Albania. When she first came to the Helen Bamber Foundation, Ajkuna was not ready for trauma-focussed therapy, she was very unstable and found it very difficult to take care of herself, particularly evident in her dangerously low weight.
Gradually, Ajkuna has engaged with therapeutic activities at HBF, including a stabilisation therapy group specifically designed for survivors of trafficking.
After some time, Ajkuna felt more stable and ready to engage in trauma-focussed work and began the long and difficult process of addressing her traumatic experiences in Narrative Exposure Therapy. At the beginning of her sessions, Ajkuna found it hard to discuss all the bad things that had happened to her and expressed strong feelings of sadness and anger.
As Ajkuna progressed to talking through her traumatic experiences, she began experiencing an increase in panic attacks and nightmares. This is not unusual and is one of the most difficult aspects of trauma-focussed therapy for clients to cope with.
Because Ajkuna had not been pushed into therapy before she was ready and because she had developed trust with the team, the therapist was successfully able to build in several sessions on grounding and relaxation techniques, which meant Ajkuna was able to continue treatment.
Half way through her sessions, Ajkuna described how she felt that therapy had really helped as it has been a safe space to talk and she is less burdened by her problems. Her trauma symptoms were already improving; her flashbacks reduced to 2-3 per month.
At her final session, Ajkuna looked well and had put on a little weight. She said things were going well at college and that she was able to concentrate and do well in her exams. Her trauma symptoms are much improved (her clinical scores have reduced from ‘severe’ to ‘moderate’).
Ajkuna expressed gratitude for the opportunity to receive therapy and has taken a volunteering role with a charity linked to HBF, which she feels is an opportunity to give back to others.
*all names are pseudonyms