Heba Sarhan is a psychosocial counselor, CVT Jordan.
It can be surprising how every aspect of CVT’s therapeutic work helps clients heal. I met with one client only one time, for his initial intake session when he first came to CVT. By coincidence I saw him at the reception desk again one day. He said to me, “You changed something here,” and pointed at his head.
For our clients, intake sessions themselves can be therapeutic. It’s not just asking questions and taking answers. It’s the beginning of healing. It starts from the way we ask the intake questions – the clients begin feeling they have enough space to express themselves and their feelings. They are feeling comfortable with us.
I was very happy to join CVT nearly two years ago. CVT is a dream for anyone who is interested in counseling – among the other organizations, it’s considered one of the best in this field. I appreciate it because the work here at CVT is mostly clinical. Before I joined CVT, I volunteered on the helpline of an organization where we provided counseling on the phone, but not physical interviews or counseling.
I appreciate the process we use at CVT. In the beginning, we give clients a screening interview, followed by the evaluation and assessment during the intake – all is done so that we can identify the best service for each client. In my role, I do individual counseling as well as facilitate group counseling sessions. Once the counseling cycle is complete, we conduct follow-up assessments after three months, six months and 12 months. It is through these sessions that you can really see the impact of the counseling sessions. In a way, the follow-up assessments are like the first intake: we ask questions about the same symptoms. But now I see that for many clients, symptoms they suffered from are majorly reduced. Some clients even physically appear in better shape – from the way they take care of themselves and their hygiene, to the way they deal with their own problems, now it is healthy. The way they view the future – they are more hopeful. Their relationships with other people are improved.
Seeing the results of my work in this way is very important to me. These positive results can give us as CVT staff more motivation and belief in the work we do. Clients tell me what has changed in their lives — some clients tell me that in the past, anything would get them angry. Now, after coming to CVT, it’s better.
As an example of improvements, one client was unforgettable for me. We teach an exercise called movement breathing. This client has asthma and was on an inhaler. However, by the end of the counseling cycle, she told me she no longer needed her inhaler. And of course we cannot ignore the role of physiotherapy for clients – this client’s success also shows this impact. Some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include the feeling of having a heavy chest and difficulty breathing. For this client, her symptoms were much lower and she was able to breathe better.
The movement breathing exercise is an effective one because it involves breathing and moving at the same time – this is more complicated than most people know. People don’t necessarily focus on how they are breathing; they don’t always think about every motion they make. The counseling cycle is ten sessions long, and we teach this in the third session, still in the early phases of healing. The exercise helps increase awareness of their bodies and helps them identify pain they didn’t know existed. Part of this activity involves giving clients a body image on which they draw anywhere they feel pain or discomfort. The group does an example together first, and then each client completes one for themselves. Afterward they talk about which part of the body feels better. In addition, we always focus on how to keep doing exercises even after sessions.
I hear many words of hope from clients, and many words of gratitude. At a final session, one client told me “You are my role model.” This was not easy for me to hear. It forced me to be more aware of my actions, and it’s a massive responsibility. Hearing this made me feel my job is not easy – it can be difficult because of the challenging nature of the stories we hear and the many people we interview. I try to focus on self-care. I am the mother of three daughters, so I spend my time having fun with my husband and family or with my friends – this is all part of self-care for me.
And I see hope in our work with children – it’s highly effective, with our outcomes showing that last year 95 percent of child clients had lower psychological symptoms and 86 percent had lower behavioral functioning difficulties. One exercise we do with them is called Time Machine. The children are asked to imagine themselves after a few decades. What do they want to become? What kind of role do they want to have? The exercise has massive impact on children. They think about themselves in a job they want when they grow up. We do this with adults as well, and they tend to think about their children and families – they want to give their children a good future, education, a decent life. The children tell us what they want to become – a chef or a doctor. One little boy told me he wants to be married with six children. He said he wants to have two girls, and one will be named Heba, and one will be named Shorouq, for my colleague.
At CVT, we restore hope with people who have been tortured. We can’t guarantee hope will be restored for every client, but at least we try to restore some dignity. They can feel people treat them as human.
This is very rewarding work.
Funding for CVT’s work in Jordan is provided by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.