Assisting refugee survivors of torture and trauma : An existential perspective

Consistent exposure to refugee narratives of trauma and torture can profoundly impact trauma therapists. This secondary analysis reanalyzed data from a narrative inquiry investigating the lived experiences of refugee trauma therapists. We aimed to explore emergent concerns through an existential lens to enrich understanding and provide additional insights into the lived experiences of these individuals.


Participants in this purposive sample (N = 19) were therapists who had provided interventions to refugees for 2–34 years. Narrative construction, theory-guided data analysis, and memo writing were used to reanalyze data generated by semistructured interviews augmented by photo elicitation. The findings indicate that being forced to reevaluate familiar beliefs consequent to one's professional roles induced intense existential moments, described as “a dark night of the soul,” “the paradox of life and death,” “uncanny feelings of not being at home,” and “a falling.”


Acknowledging the complexities of the field, an existential framework to assist refugee trauma therapists in metabolizing and living with the professional challenges they encounter instead of focusing on alleviating decontextualized symptoms of distress is recommended. Research to inform requirements of the space to enable refugee trauma therapists to share their concerns and facilitate transitions toward more authentic, nonevasive sense of “being-in-the-world” is suggested.

Pearl Fernandes, Paul Rhodes, Niels Buus | 2024
In: Journal of Traumatic Stress ; ISSN: 0894-9867 | 37 | 2 | april | 280-290
Adults, Life Experiences, Methodology, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychological distress, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Secondary trauma, Vicarious Traumatization