The psychological impact of torture

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Tuesday, July 7th to Wednesday, September 30th

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Directions: Please watch Eugene Augusterfer’s presentation and interview Telemedicine in Mental Health first. Then feel free to join us in this open forum. All are welcome to join this forum, whether you have an account on or not. For more information on using the forum, please read the directions on the first post. Please keep your comments respectful, relevant, factual, and do not share identifying information about clients per client privacy and HIPAA regulations. This forum will be open from July 6, 2020 through September 30, 2020.

Williams, A., & Merwe, J. (2013). The psychological impact of torture. British Journal of Pain, 7(101), 101-106. Retrieved October 27, 2014.

Many refugees in the developed world are survivors of torture and present with health needs without their traumatic experience being disclosed or identified. Chronic pain is a common problem, as are symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other distress. Current circumstances, particularly poverty, uncertainty about asylum, separation from or loss of family and roles, and difficulties settling in the host country, all contribute to current psychological problems and exacerbate existing ones. Psychological treatment studies tend to be focused either on PTSD diagnosis and use protocol-driven treatment, usually in the developed world, or on multiple problems using multimodal treatment including advocacy and welfare interventions, usually in the developing world. Reviews of both of these, and some of the major criticisms, are described. Psychological interventions tend to produce medium-sized changes in targeted measures of distress, when compared with waiting lists or standard treatment, but these may fall well short of enabling recovery, and long-term follow-up is rare. A human rights context, with reference to cultural difference in expressing distress and seeking help, and with reference to the personal meaning of torture, is essential as a basis for formulating treatment initiatives based on the evidence reviewed.


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