The problems of trauma and loss, resulted from all levels of conflict, can be seen as a common theme, specifically in the context of the historical and political events of the 20th and 21st century. The apparent need in dealing with traumas and losses, in terms of providing psychological care to their victims, enforces constant researches on the best practices that will help the victims to recover. The Western-based trauma models had received a sufficient t amount of criticism, regarding the way Western psychiatry mostly focus on the disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder(PSTD), medicalizing and reducing the problem to an aspect of symptoms and medical interventions. In that regard, this paper analyzes a situation of dealing with victims of a protracted conflict, based on a critique of the Western-based trauma models provided in Kleinman (1995) and Wessells (1999).
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The main area of critique can be seen in depriving trauma resulted from a conflict, from its context, and accordingly dealing with it as a medical case. In that context, Kleinman argued that the practices of Western psychology assess trauma as an essential category of human existence, “rooted in individual rather than social dynamics” (Kleinman). Such essential category turns the painful emotional experiences in particular context, mostly collective, into an individualized occurrence, which can be treated outside of its particular perspective (Kleinman). Taking the diagnostic system of the Psychiatric Association, and the way it deals with the PTSD’s of the victims of conflicts, Kleinman outlined the following challenges:
- Normal responses to trauma, where the worst physiological, psychological, and social effects of violence are treated like a disease.
- The emphasis on the psychological effect, ignoring the social causes and consequences.
- The neglecting of the victim’s experiences.
- The emphasis on the persistence of symptoms (Kleinman).
In that sense, such view on the Western practices asserts their trivial approach, which not only limits healing, but also reduces the problem and “marginalizes local voices and cultural traditions” (Wessells 269).
An example of protracted conflict victims can be seen through the diasporas in the United States generated by the Arab-Palestinian conflict. In such case, the victims meant are specifically those who are first generation refugees, rather than second or third generation emigrants. Those who cross the border escaping violence and war can be characterized by “a specific set of traumatic memories and create specific types of “conflict-generated diasporas” that sustain and sometimes amplify their strong sense of attachment to the homeland” (Lyons). It can be seen that the approach toward healing the psychological stresses and trauma should imply assessing the problem not from a perspective of a single person or a family, but rather in the context of the whole community. As indicated in the critique, the emphasis should be put not only on the psychological problems that the particular family is having, but also on other factors, such as “food, security, housing, and survival” (Wessells). The contextualization of the problem, also requires looking at the background of the problem and the experience of the victims, as well as their attachment to their homeland, specifically considering that the conflict might still be going, and they are not willing to compromise their attachment to the conflict” (Lyons).
It can be concluded that the Western trauma model emphasizes a medical approach toward healing conflict victims. In that regard, outlining the main deficiencies of such approach reveals that the areas of improvements include the consideration of the background of the victims and the context of the conflict, in order to help them successfully overcome their losses.