Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan survivors and trauma therapy

One of my first blog posts here on Reality and Fiction was about the problematic assumption that people who have experienced a trauma should talk about it. I had read that sometimes it can be better for survivors to devote themselves to continuing their lives rather than dwelling on the past.

Now, following the disaster in Japan, another article points out similar concerns. Trauma therapists obviously believe in their methods, and motivated by a desire to help the survivors in Japan, they may actually make things worse for some individuals, who would have done better without this sort of therapy.

The article points out a few problems: first, there is a risk of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by telling survivors the sort of symptoms they can expect to experience (such as flashbacks and nightmares). Second, the therapists might not respect individuals' preference not to talk about their experience, and try to force them to "let it out". Finally, therapists coming from overseas might not be aware of the cultural differences between their culture and Japanese culture.

One of the strengths of Japanese culture, according to the article, is its collective nature. People will benefit from belonging to a cohesive social group that is recovering together.

I wish all the survivors a speedy recovery, using their own preferred recovery method, whether it is talking about their experiences and losses, or just getting on with rebuilding their normal lives.

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