Bringing Back Happy Moments | The Center for Victims of Torture

Bringing Back Happy Moments

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Ansam Abusabha is a senior physiotherapist at CVT Jordan.

You ask me, what is the most beautiful feeling in the world? I say: To feel that you are not underestimated, to feel that you are safe even if you make a mistake and that you are understood even if your words betray you. That you are not replaced even if you are in a bad mood, and that you will not be left even if you feel the desire to leave yourself. My friend, nothing is more beautiful than knowing that your story will always be heard, that your tears will become a smile no matter what the circumstances are, and that your pain will lessen no matter how difficult the situations seem. Simply, this is what CVT does.

Being a CVT staff member makes me proud to see and harvest the fruits of the seeds planted by the therapist, and how all members are working side by side toward the client’s needs. Working together as a team to achieve a common goal for the clients or to complete a task in the most effective and efficient way is a concept called the interdisciplinary team (IDT) approach, seen within the greater framework of a team. IDT is one of the most important elements in CVT’s work: the ability to work together toward a clear vision to meet the client’s needs. If we are working alone, we will do little, but together we can do so much and that’s what CVT does and promotes.   

The interdisciplinary approach is the heart of great achievements. Through this approach we provide complementary and integrated services for the clients. This approach was used when we worked with a 39-year old client who came to CVT hoping to feel better and confident. As clinicians, we could see she needed to change her self-vision to enhance her self-esteem so she could meet her goal to become the wall against which her children lean.

This client was seen by a psychosocial counselor, a social worker and a physiotherapist. Her main complaint was experiencing panic attacks after the traumatic event of rape. During the panic attacks her breathing and heart rate increased, and she said she felt she was about to die. She felt chest pain and felt that she couldn’t take any breath. She said it felt that she was losing control. This incident affected her life in many ways, as she said, “What happened to me was stigmatizing and it is affecting my life in all aspects. First it affected me physically, by causing chronic neck pain, headache, shallow breathing and sleeping problems. Second, it affected me psychologically by making me anxious, depressed and worried, with low self-esteem and low body image. Third, it affected me socially as I preferred to be alone, isolating and avoiding any outside activities.”

“I prefer to sit alone in my room. I avoid visiting my sisters because they are looking at me with that look . . . the stigma look,” the client added.

She preferred to listen instead of participating, and she shared that she was trying, but at the same time she was afraid. She said she was afraid to be understood wrongly and avoided being in any social situation, even to go to the nearby market, “I am always asking my son to bring for me the groceries that I need from the market,” she said.

This clinical and subjective information is built by the cooperation and the communication between therapists as an IDT team. Together we started to build the appropriate treatment plan for this client. We included many types of exercises, first to manage her panic attacks, and we included grounding. We also taught her how to track the different signs in her body that came just before the attack. She was then able to use techniques that we practiced such as breathing and relaxation, which calmed her body and decreased her attacks. 

In addition, this also helped her manage her pain, with exercises including stretching, self-massage of tender points in her muscles, joint movement and pain education. We also taught her how to enhance her self-esteem and be more confident, which led to enhancing her self-care for her appearance and health, empowering her self-image. She began to develop healthy coping strategies, such as how to manage her emotions and unhelpful thoughts, deal with her losses, plan for her future, and begin to break up the avoidance cycle and enhance her exposure so she could do outside activities gradually.

After her fifth session there was obvious progress: her breathing improved, she started to fall asleep quickly, became more open and comfortable, and she began talking and sharing more with her therapists. In the sessions, she was able to maintain good eye contact with others and do certain activities with her children and visit her family members. She said that her self-image being focused on what had happened to her as a stigma no longer existed. “I love to walk with my daughter at night and just talk about what comes in our minds. I am now walking like a superwoman, confident and standing high like a mountain. I love that I now have the key to any closed door that I may face.’’

Session by session and after providing 12 counseling and physiotherapy sessions, working as one unit parallel to each other, as a team we were able to see her smile becoming bigger; she was satisfied with all the achievements that she reached. She wrote a small letter to express how happy she was: “I present all of you with the kindest thanks and gratitude, filled with love, respect and appreciation. Thank you all for everything you’ve done for me. I am speechless and cannot express everything I have to say. I have nothing but gratitude and I have come today to carry the purest thanks, salutes and compliments. Because you lit my path when I was lost. You stand by the weak and the sad and the suffering from internal wounds and you helped bandage my injuries. You try as much as you can to draw a smile on all the faces you come across. Those who don’t thank people do not thank God. Here I am carrying on with my life and I beg of God to make the future better and brighter. May all of you find happiness, because I am happy now. May God give you strength and pay you with good and benevolence.”

In the last session she told me that we have to create our own happy moments and we have to smile at those moments like there is no before or after it. She said being a CVT client helped her to make her own beautiful moments.




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