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Staff Insights

Giving Something Extra for Survivors

Published January 30, 2020

Dr. Eman Al-Shuaibi, is a psychosocial counselor at CVT Jordan.

In our work as psychosocial counselors (PSCs) at CVT, we have a lot of professional skills and training, but sometimes we need to walk that extra mile. Sometimes, something doesn’t seem right –for example when clients stop answering their phones. Because of the nature of trauma and the challenges facing survivors of torture, it is always important to pay attention and take action when something isn’t right.

For example, I worked with a male rape survivor, and this was a new kind of case for me. He experienced nightmares about the attack, and he always felt he was being suffocated in any social situation. If he went out with friends, he could sit for only five minutes, and then he felt he just had to get out and go home. This worsened his social problems and he feared that questions would arise – “Why did he always leave so early?” He was forced to live with a lot of fear and shame, on top of everything else he’d already suffered. He worried that the people asking too many questions might finally discover what had happened to him. He was anxious on the street or among crowds and would get off the bus – he could not handle closed spaces.

It was a very difficult case, but step by step, he started getting better. By the last session, he had changed so much I even asked myself, is this really him? Where he had sat hunched over with his head low and his eyes fixated on the ground in the past, now he sat like a prince, completely upright. He even dressed more elegantly.

But this took time. At one point throughout our individual sessions, he just stopped answering his phone. When I called, he did not answer. I worked with my colleagues on the social work team to get in touch with him and let him know that we care that he is safe and comfortable. He came back for care and made progress. He portrayed himself in these drawings, first showing himself before care as small, weak, surrendered.

In his ‘before’ image, the client is being pursued by perpetrators. He is alone.

However, after he came to CVT, his self-portrait showed himself with stronger, bigger leg, as someone with enough stability and strength. Now his hands were up, and he was the one fending off the perpetrators.

When I asked this client about the progress he made, he said that he went from a level of 0 to a 7 or 8. He felt so much better; he is the one now trying to help other war survivors who have been persecuted, dehumanized, ethnically cleansed, kidnapped, humiliated, detained, enslaved, discriminated against and raped.

This was an intimidating case for me, but in the end I could feel how much quality we provide in our service. Even if it is exhausting, it is worth it. I truly felt that if we were able to help restore even a tiny fragment of dignity, we succeeded.

Before I started working for CVT, I worked in psychological services for children and also as a school counselor. Some of the students where I worked as a counselor were refugees. I felt how direly they needed counseling along with their families in order for them to adapt to their new lives, new schools and new friends. And this is when I made the decision to have a role in providing these services to this particular population. I now have the chance to personally counsel and convince children who found it easier to drop out of school than face all of these challenges – including difficulties fitting into this completely new society, being bullied about their different accents and nationalities, and feeling guilty about putting more financial burden on their parents – into rethinking their decisions and enrolling back into school.

As part of my doctoral studies, I learned about trauma and the effects of trauma on a person. With the humanitarian crises in this region, I was very affected by watching the news about what was happening to people. I knew how much they were suffering. I was curious and passionate and I wanted personally to help them. They have become our neighbors and our countrymen, and we, their comrades.

So I applied to CVT. I really liked and admired what I heard about CVT and I thought this was the kind of experience I was fit for. I wanted to work with refugees. I really admire the model we use, with our focus on physical and psychological aspects of clients’ needs. As a counselor, I like theory, and I appreciate the supervision model we use – this was new to me and even though I have a Ph.D. with experience, it’s helpful to have a person to be with me and give me feedback on my work and the way I do my job as a psychosocial counselor.

At CVT, our clients are priority, and that’s exactly how I feel. This model gives me more confidence dealing with clients, and everything we do has to benefit clients.

Original client drawings used with permission.

Funding for CVT’s work in Jordan is funded by the United States Government and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.

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