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Complementary therapies for treating survivors of torture

Original Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Last Updated: February 21, 2023
Estimated Read Time: 2 minutes

Vargas, C., O’Rourke, D. & Esfandian, M. Refuge: Canada’s Periodical on Refugees, 22(1), 129-137.

This article was reviewed by doctoral physical therapy student from the University of Minnesota, Angela Pitar, 2014.

Link to full text article from the Dignity-Danish Institute Against Torture is below and will automatically download article.

Background – the assumptions that physical pain, unexplained by medical or physical findings, is psychosomatic in nature has been long standing and pervasive as was pain reported by survivors of torture attributed to psychological trauma. In this article, the use of complementary therapies in treating torture survivors at the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST) is described. 

Purpose – proposes consideration of an integrated approach to treating survivors of torture–psychotherapy concurrently with physiotherapy or body work–after ruling out any medical problem, as practiced at the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture.

Complementary therapies – the process at VAST begins with an intake interview in which the need of the survivor–psychological, emotional, physiologic, medical, or related to resettlement–are assessed and prioritized.

Conclusion – alleviating the psychological and physiological impact of war, torture, and trauma, as well as the reconstruction of the cultural milieu, through complementary therapies are the guiding ethical practices for VAST and for the authors.

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