There’s more to war trauma than just psychology

The research café about Memory, War and Trauma attracted a crowd to Swedish School of Social Science.

Nigel Hunt

International reader at Swedish School of Social Science, Professor Nigel Hunt from the Institute of Work, Health & Organisations, University of Nottingham, based his talk on his forthcoming book, Memory, War and Trauma.

Professor Hunt argues that the cultural and historical context are important for our understanding of trauma, which is influenced by more than general psychological facts alone. He also wants to introduce a narrative dimension.

“People always tell stories. We use storytelling to arrange our experiences. Our memories are how we remember the story of our life.”

Professor Hunt’s institution is currently working with a project employing Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) in interventions to help the victims of the earthquake in Sichuan, China. Normally used on refugees, NET is now being tested on earthquake survivors.

In a nutshell, the method is based on the therapist together with the client writing down the events, including the client’s life up to the point of the traumatic event. The therapist reads the text aloud and corrects it according to the client’s wishes. This is repeated several times during a number of sessions, until the client is satisfied. The client then signs the final version that becomes a kind of official truth of what the client has experienced.

“Quite clearly, NET has a positive effect”, says Hunt. “Admittedly, ours is a pilot study and we have no control groups. In the autumn, we will have a control group and that will hopefully give us more information. We hope to show that NET also works for people who aren’t refugees.”

Nigel Hunt’s interdisciplinary book, Memory, War and Trauma, will be published in May by Cambridge University Press.

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Text and photo: Mats Engblom
Translation: AAC Global

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