Archive for October, 2010

What objects might a play therapist bring to a post-disaster therapy session?

Response from Dominique Eugene, co-editor of “Mass Trauma and Emotional Healing Around the World”:

Each psychologist or disaster relief worker provides assistance based on their specific training. During a disaster, when we go out to those countries, we only provide psychological first aid. That does not include ongoing treatment. Several of my colleagues and I do see clients after the disaster for ongoing treatment but that service is specifically tailored to the needs of the individual. For play therapists, there may be certain toys or other objects that are used to assist the client but we would not necessarily have them with us in the field. We might bring along puppets, art supplies, or other games to help assist the clients. It depends on where we are going. Sometimes all that’s needed is a ball, playing cards, or whatever is common in play activities in that country.

You might want to take a look at the following web pages: Association for Play Therapy, American Art Therapy Association, The American Psychological Association, and the National Center for PTSD.


Biopsychosocial and Eco-Spiritual Therapy Model

While the following pertains primarily to therapy in war-torn lands, it may also have some application after natural disasters.

The Meaningfulworld Humanitarian Outreach Program developed by Dr Ani Kalayjian utilizes the following seven-step model, through which various aspects of dispute, conflict or disagreements are assessed, identified, explored, processed, worked through and reintegrated. The seven-steps of the Biopsychosocial and Eco-Spiritual Model are:

I. Assess Levels of Distress, Disagreement or Conflict: Participants are given a written questionnaire to define the kind of dispute they are working on, and to elicit the impact of this dispute. Formal instruments can also be provided such as the Harvard Trauma Checklist and Heartland Forgiveness Scale.

II. Encourage Expression of Feelings: One at a time, each participant in the group is encouraged to describe the conflict from their own perspective, and to express their feelings in the ‘here and now,’ in relationship to the dispute they have identified and described.

III. Provide Empathy and Validation: Each participant’s feelings will be validated by the mediator or group facilitator. Emphasis is placed on understanding others and literally placing their feet in their opponent’s shoes. When disputes rupture an individual’s link with the group, an intolerable sense of isolation, helplessness and victimization may occur. Providing validation and empathy in such a group will transform these negative effects by reestablishing the mutual exchange between the individuals in conflict, with the others in the group witnessing this process.

IV. Encourage Discovery and Expression of Meaning: Participants will be asked “What lessons, meaning or positive associations did you discover as a result of this dispute?” This question is based on Viktor Frankl’s logotherapeutic principles: that there could be a positive meaning discovered in the worst catastrophe; there are lessons to be learned in the most difficult situations. The facilitator will help opposing parties discover their own dark sides in order to transform those into lessons learned. Dr King has asserted that only light can transform darkness. Participants will be invited to focus on individual and collective growth, strengths and meanings, which naturally arise out of any dispute or conflict. Forgiveness is also reinforced here as a tool for self care and letting go of resentments and anger, which only reinforce the conflict and dispute and serve to exacerbate the process of healing and peace making.

V. Provide Didactic Information: Practical tools and information are shared on how to gradually integrate the conflict resolution information provided and how to care for oneself as a caregiver/mediator.  Also shared are information re-steps of practicing forgiveness and thus transforming the dispute. In addition, how violence begets more violence and transmits it through seven generations is explored. Information on assertiveness and anger management is also shared, as well as the UN Declaration for Human Rights.

VI. Eco Centered Caring: Practical tools are shared to connect with Gaia, Mother Earth and ways to care for one’s environment. Emphasis is placed on starting with one’s environment and expanding it to the larger globe, while still being mindful of the system’s perspective and how we can impact our environment and how the environment, in turn, impacts us.

VII. Body, Breathing and Movement-Centered Healing: Breath is used as a natural medicine and a healing tool. Since no one can control others and what happens outside of one’s self, participants are assisted in being mindful of how they can respond to the dispute instead of reacting to it. Participants are instructed on how to use breath towards self-empowerment, creating peace within, as well as to engender gratitude, compassion, faith, strength and forgiveness in response to conflicts.

Welcome to Meaningful World – Dr. Ani Kalayjian. Web. 31 Oct. 2010. <;.


Reconstruye helps communities organize and rebuild after a disaster so that you can still stay close to your friends and neighbors. See the English video here.

You used to live in a house or in a flat, that was a lot more than your house. It was your neighborhood, your work place, your parks and your amenities.

All that you needed for a good quality of life was at hand.

After the earthquake, the house where you lived was damaged or demolished.
Whether you rent, share or own your home, you are now in distress.

Your few choices are to sell your land or to apply for a government subsidy.
In both cases you only will be able to afford to move into a new social interest project, very far away from your current neighborhood.

But, what is the cost of this?

Your friends and neighbors will live far away, you will have to travel long distances to get to your workplace, school or services, losing all those things that were part of your former quality of life, and allowing for your old neighborhood to disappear under the construction of new real estate projects that do not include you.

But you are not alone. There are others who have been affected just like you. If you organize with them you will be able to access other options to stay in your neighborhood.

There are professionals that can help you, delivering technical and legal assistance, and developing inclusive projects.

Confronting this situation together, we will preserve our neighborhoods, and our social networks, working to keep the reconstruction resources with you and not with third party businesses.

Get involved with us. We can help you.


Developing Resilience

Resilience is a lifelong process of successful adaptation and transformation despite hardship. Factors leading to resiliency include (a) compensating experiences, (b) fewer stressors, (c) supportive environment, and (d) adaptable personality. A man in Sri Lanka, for example, felt responsible for 17 people who had lost their homes and family in the tsunami. He compensated by working, helping out with food, and providing guidance and support. Spirituality and meaning-making are also important. A person needs a sense of purpose to avoid engaging in self-destructive thoughts or behavior.

Kalayjian, Ani, and Dominique Eugene. Mass Trauma and Emotional Healing around the World: Rituals and Practices for Resilience and Meaning-making. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010. 107-124. Print.

What is the opposite of user-centered design?

Some design flaws are so obvious that they speak for themselves. Notice the expression on the woman’s face in the last picture for this unisex urinal design.

Chile Postcard Ideas

These are possible postcard ideas pertaining to generating/supplementing a preliminary needs assessment in Chile. These would be the postcards that they return to us. I wanted to keep the questions as open-ended as possible. All of the postcards are 4″x6″. The last one may be problematic because the image isn’t actually from Chile. It’s an Australian drought.

Haiti: A Disaster in Engineering

In a recent TED talk, Peter Haas discusses how the Haiti earthquake was a disaster due to poor engineering. Chile had fewer casualties in its 8.8 earthquake than did Haiti in its 7.0 earthquake because Chile’s buildings had structural supports that worked together and, for the most part, did not collapse. His group, AIDG, is educating masonry workers in Haiti to use more structurally sound engineering techniques (without raising cost) to reduce casualties in future earthquakes.