Couples Therapy with Torture Survivors

This webinar, featuring Paul Orieny, PhD, LMFT, discusses the importance of, and some approaches to, couples therapy with survivors of torture.

This webinar is part of the National Capacity Building Project's webinar series. NCB is a project of the Center for Victims of Torture.


Average: 4.5 (2 votes)


Monday, 16 June 2014


Torture and trauma break connections and disrupt attachment bonds with a consequent increase in marital distress. Our clinical experience at CVT confirms the fact that couples’ relationships are dramatically damaged by torture. At the same time, those relationships are instrumental in the survivors’ recovery. Well-designed couples therapy has the potential to help survivor couples deal more effectively with trauma-related marital distress, to assist partners to understand and provide spousal support, to promote treatment engagement, and to strengthen intimate relationships.

The other webinars in the post-family reunification series are:


1. Increase awareness of the systemic/dyadic effects of torture and trauma.
2. Increase appreciation for intervening at the couples’ level in trauma treatment.
3. Reflect on and consider challenging issues of: conjoint work, family secrets, and contextual factors like immigration as pertains to working with trauma couples.
4. Become familiar with select theoretical and couples therapy approaches that fit work with torture survivors .
5. See some practical examples of CVT couples work.


Paul Orieny, PhD, LMFT

Dr. Paul Orieny works as an International Services Clinical Advisor at the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) where he is responsible for supervising field expatriate psychotherapists, and providing clinical oversight to CVT’s international clinical programs operations in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda.

For over 5 years five years before transferring to the International Services, he worked full time as a psychotherapist, and part of the CVT’s client services multidisciplinary team who work to rehabilitate the diverse CVT’s torture and trauma clients. He worked in individual, couples, family, and group psychotherapy formats with clients from Bosnia, Iraq, Georgia, Myanmar, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cameroon, Congo, Liberia, Togo, Zimbabwe, Laos, the Hmong culture, Eretria, Somalia, and Guinea among other places. Previous to this he worked around the twin cities in-home, school-based, and office based psychotherapy with at risk students, immigrant families, and inner city low income families.

Dr. Orieny holds a PhD in Family Social Science with Marriage & Family Therapy specialization from University of Minnesota. He has been involved in various research and in community-based participatory work around mental health with African community in the twin cities. He has teaching experience at graduate level in Marriage and Family Therapy. In addition, he is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Minnesota and is especially sensitive and knowledgeable about cultural, immigration, and socioeconomic issues as they relate to supervision, teaching, research, and psychotherapy.


Books and Articles

Boss, P. (2006). Loss, trauma, and resilience: Therapeutic work with ambiguous loss. New York: W.W. Norton.

Catani, C. (2010). War at home - a review of the relationship between war trauma and family violence. Verhaltenstherapie, 20, 19-27. Available in English and German

Figley, C. R. (1988). A five-phase treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in families. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1, 127–141. Available for rent or purchase

Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Hardy, K.V., & Laszloffy, T.A. (2002). Couples therapy using a multicultural perspective. In Gurman & N. Jacobson (Eds.), Clinical Handbook of Couples Therapy (3rd ed.). New York: Guildford.

Imber-Black, E. (1993). Secrets in families and family therapy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and recovery. London: Pandora Books.

Johnson, S. (2002). Emotionally focused couple therapy with trauma survivors: Strengthening attachment bonds. New York: Guilford Press.

Kaufman, L. (2008, April 6). After War, Love Can Be a Battlefield. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Schnarch, D. M. (1991). Constructing the sexual crucible: An integration of sexual and marital therapy. New York: W. W. Norton.

Stith SM, Rosen KH, McCollum EE, Thomsen CJ. 2004. Treating intimate partner violence within intact couple relationships: outcomes of multi-couple versus individual couple therapy. J. Marital Fam. Ther. 30:305–18

Van der Kolk, B.A., Perry, J.C., & Herman, J.L. (1991). Childhood origins of self-destructive behavior. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 1665–1671.


The Gottman Institute