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Community-based interventions to heal trauma

This article discusses community-based interventions that can be used in the healing of trauma, social disconnection, and community violence.

It is important to consider community-based interventions for those exposed to trauma. Some of the essential ingredients of such interventions are highlighted in the illustrative diagram above (López-Zerón & Parra-Cardona, 2015).

Case-studies: community interventions for the healing of trauma

Three community interventions implemented following major traumatic events are highlighted.

The first focuses on families impacted by Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans in 2005.

The second example considers communities affected by the Sri Lankan war, which ended in 2009.

The final case study takes us to central Africa to consider recovery in post-genocide Rwanda.

A drawn map of the world. The location of New Orleans in the U.S. state of Louisiana, and the location of Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal, are highlighted. Rwanda, a country in Africa, is also highlighted. The location of New Orleans in the U.S. state of Louisiana, and the location of Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal, are highlighted. Rwanda, a country in Africa, is also highlighted.

Trauma-Informed Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) after Hurricane Katrina

MDFT was implemented targeting youth and their families after Hurricane Katrina. It intervened at multiple levels in the youth’s lives and involved work individually, with parents, as a family, and in connection with other interventions and community and social supports. It was also evaluated in several studies targeting youth with substance use problems. Concrete target outcomes included youth’s coping skills and substance use.

Rebuilding Community Resilience in a Post-War Sri Lanka

In the context of post-war Sri Lanka, Somasundaram and Sivayokan (2013) recommended community-based interventions that focus on rebuilding community cohesion and resilience, increasing local awareness, knowledge and skills to cope with mental health and psychosocial challenges, and leveraging healing cultural practices.

A banner reading "Rwanda: Sociotherapy post-genocide"

Two farmers Two farmers. Source:

Comunity-based psychotherapy

The country of Rwanda has endured a long history of political violence and oppression, human rights violations, segregation and poverty.

Community-based psychotherapy was introduced in 2005 in the country with the aim of fostering dignity and respect, rebuilding social ties and reducing mental distress, particularly among the survivors of war and genocide.

Weekly meetings are typically held in participants’ direct living environment such as a church, a school, or under a tree in the open air.

Facilitators guide the groups through the phases of safety, trust, care, respect, rules, and memories. Foundational principles of this therapeutic approach are equality, democracy, participation and responsibility. Sessions often involve participants talking about their present life challenges.


Sociotherapy is seen by participants as a medicine for the heart, and as healing from the social disconnection and chronic community violence.

Sociotherapy is also believed to promote ubwiyunge – which translates as ‘thick’ reconciliation and involves restoring social relations, trust, respect and dialogue with others.


López-Zerón, G., & Parra-Cardona, J. R. (2015). Elements of Change Across Community-Based Trauma Interventions. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 34(3), 60–76.

Richters, A., Rutayisire, T., Sewimfura, T., & Ngendahayo, E. (2010). Psychotrauma, healing and reconciliation in Rwanda: the contribution of community-based sociotherapy. African Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1(2), 55-63. Retrieved from

Somasundaram, D., & Sivayokan, S. (2013). Rebuilding community resilience in a post-war context: Developing insight and recommendations – a qualitative study in northern Sri Lanka. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 7(1), 3-3.

© University of Glasgow
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the Global Context

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