Survivors of violence in the developing world are unlikely to respond to western interventions based on individual counselling.
This is according to a study conducted in Angola amongst displaced people living in Huila province, the results of which are published in the latest Lancet.
“Our findings raise questions about the appropriateness of western counselling approaches in a context where people have a different understanding of what a survivor needs to achieve and how they can be helped through a period of suffering and despair,” said one of the authors, Professor Alastair Ager from Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh.
According to the study, most Angolans interviewed said they first turned to those around them such as family members, neighbours, elders and church groups, for advice.
This “conselho” (advice) usually encouraged people to abandon the thoughts and memories of war and losses.
It followed three main themes, namely:
- death is natural and inevitable for all people;
- everyone suffers, and thus strength can be drawn from the fact that suffering is a shared experience;
- practical help must be given to people who are distressed.
“We concluded that psychosocial programmes that attempt to use counselling are unlikely to be popular,” said Ager.
“We recommend that local perspectives, resources, and coping strategies be taken as a starting point, not only for assessing the existing strengths within a community, but also for rendering psychosocial interventions culturally appropriate and relevant.”