Logo for the Center for Victims of Torture
Notes from the Ground

Support and Training for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Workers in Ethiopia

Published March 18, 2024

Shown from left: Mado Assefa, CVT; Sirak Silashi, UNHCR; Selamawit Girma, IOM; Sandra Githaiga, CVT; Awa Ahmed, UNHCR

In the field of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), the ability of professionals to effectively address the needs of trauma survivors is paramount. CVT’s clinical team in Ethiopia regularly receives requests for trainings on trauma-informed care from partner organizations who work with people who have experienced traumatizing situations. Sandra Githaiga, clinical program director for CVT Ethiopia, said, “Our partner agencies recognize the need for training and want to ensure their workers have the skills that will best support their beneficiaries.”

Our partner agencies recognize the need for training and want to ensure their workers have the skills that will best support their beneficiaries.”

Sandra Githaiga, clinical program director, CVT Ethiopia

Recently, the team took on a substantive process to develop training through a project by the Australian Embassy in Ethiopia. Developing the syllabus and training curriculum on MHPSS for those working with refugees and internally displaced persons is not only crucial as a tool to enhance people’s skills, but it was also a transformative experience for the CVT Ethiopia clinical team, Sandra noted. “By developing this syllabus and curriculum,” she said, “it is our hope that organizations will have a comprehensive understanding of essential topics related to mental health and psychosocial services in the communities where trauma is widespread.”

Sandra said that a key goal for the training program was to promote resilience and well-being among organizations and conflict-affected communities.

The team developed a syllabus and training curriculum, following a process that allowed for needs assessment, feedback-gathering and testing, as summarized in the graphic below. This progression gave structure to the process and helped ensure that feedback is part of ongoing improvements.

The team began its work with a literature review to support the development of the training needs assessment. This comprehensive review revealed urgent training needs for MHPSS providers in several contexts, including cultural sensitivity and localized intervention training, as well as trauma-informed care training, mental health integration in primary care, capacity building in crisis counseling and psychosocial support, and community mobilization and engagement.

Based on this review, the team then developed a training needs assessment which was shared with members of Ethiopia’s National MHPSS Technical Working Group (TWG) for their feedback. Once the feedback was received and incorporated, the information was shared widely with organizations that work with people who have experienced trauma. These included MHPSS TWG (Gambella, Tigray, Oromo, National), National Child Protection (CP) Area of Responsibility (AoR), and National Gender-Based Violence (GBV) AoR. A total of 30 responses were captured and analyzed.

The team next began developing the draft syllabus and curriculum. To create the materials, CVT recruited an external consultant who had worked previously as a CVT clinical advisor. The consultant assessed the literature review and training needs assessment, and then developed a facilitator guide and a training manual specifically addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). In addition, the curriculum was developed, providing 14 modules covering important relevant topics, including impacts of trauma, how to support vulnerable populations and self-care.

Sandra noted that four modules were added to the curriculum based on CVT’s specialized and wide experience in the field of trauma work. These included GBV training, counseling SGVB survivors, an integrated model for supervision, along with information about monitoring self-care through CVT’s Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) tool.

The next step in the process was to gather feedback through both an expert review and reviews by members of the National MHPSS TWG. For the expert reviews, the team engaged local mental health professionals with expertise in trauma. These experts reviewed the curriculum and provided insights on current best practices and emerging trends. The local experts included Dr. Mamuye (psychiatrist at Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital, Mekelle), Medhanye Alem (CVT psychotherapist/trainer- Tigray program), and Kiflom Negash (CVT associate physiotherapist/trainer- Tigray program).

Next, a feedback session was held with selected members of the National MHPSS TWG. This was helpful to ensure the curriculum’s practical relevance and applicability. During this feedback session, the team informed the participants of the overall content and went through each of the case studies for them to provide comments. Furthermore, during this session, partners were asked which modules would need to be piloted during the pilot testing. Through this process, it was agreed that we would pilot modules 1, 2 and 7.

The trainers were amazed with the huge response from partners!”

To begin the pilot testing, the team sent an email through various national cluster/technical working groups to invite prospective participants. The trainers were amazed with the huge response from partners! The training was attended by participants from various organizations and from different professional backgrounds, including protection managers, human resources staff, MHPSS managers and professional association members. Participants were given the option to attend the module of their preference.  

The pilot testing training was successful in equipping participants with knowledge, while at the same time allowing them to provide feedback on the content and facilitation of the sessions. To measure the knowledge gain of participants, pre- and post-test were completed and all participants scored higher in their post-tests. 

We are proud that participants came from organizations including: Action Against Hunger, Danish Refugee Council, ZOA from relief to recovery, Ethiopia Psychological Association, Hope for justice, Ethiopia Mental Health Association, Medical Teams International, Children Believe, Addis Ababa University Department of Psychology, International Committee for the Development of Peoples, Welthungerhilfe, Link Education Ethiopia, UNICEF CP AoR coordinator, International Orthodox Christian Charities, and International Medical Corps.

Below is a photo from the pilot testing:

CVT would like to thank our donor, the Australian government and its Direct Aid Program (DAP), for the support that made this undertaking possible.

Share this Article

Related Articles