Keynote - Round Table: The refugee crisis in Europe and its implications for EMDR therapists

Isabel Fernandez, Derek Farrell, Rolf Carriere, Brenda Stoter

Chair(s): Udi Oren

Sunday 19 june 2016

9:00 - 10:15h at World Forum Theater

Categories: Special populations, Refugees


The refugee crisis in Europe and its implications for EMDR therapists



Journalistic perspective: Traumatized children and women in the Middle East

Brenda Stoter


The presentation will start with a journalistic perspective on the Syrian/Iraqi conflict and on the living conditions of refugees in countries like Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan and Lebanon. Their governments are mainly focused on providing practical services for refugees, such as housing, medical care and aid. Mental health care is not on their priority list, also because of the stigma – in the Middle East it is not common to visit a therapist when it comes to dealing with trauma. Most of the refugee children can overcome trauma by participating in psychosocial programs provided by NGO’s. However, sometimes –when the trauma is “fresh” or after severe trauma like losing family members- traumas cannot be processed by psychosocial programs alone. The victims need therapists. In Iraq, this is a big problem as there is lack of qualified personal. Another issue are Syrian girls and women living in poverty, who are often vulnerable for exploitation. In Jordan and Lebanon, Syrian girls are often married off before the age of 18. Some were forced to marry Saudi or Jordanian men who abused them and later divorced them. Also, the situation of Yezidi women who were enslaved by IS militants will be discussed and on how their (conservative) community is dealing with this. The presentation will provide lively examples of people met during journalistic expeditions, supported by images.


Training paraprofessionals in Syria, Pakistan and Irak

Rolf Carriere


The sudden influx of traumatized refugees and migrants into Europe presents acute challenges to the whole field of public and private trauma therapy. But the challenge is greater than Europe alone. There is a huge and increasing global burden of trauma, especially in the developing world. At the same time there is a chronic shortage and mal-distribution of mental health professionals worldwide. Increasing the pool of mental health professionals is necessary but not sufficient.  The only way to bring the benefits of evidence-based trauma therapies to the millions who need it now is to create a new cadre of well-trained and well-supervised paraprofessional personnel to undertake well-defined tasks.  Examples of scaling up health services using paraprofessional workers will be presented. Ethical dilemmas and their resolution will be highlighted. A working conference is proposed (i) to collect and review available evidence of effectiveness of various paraprofessional models recently tried out in different contexts; and (ii) to define preconditions, safety standards, training curricula and further research needs to guide this new paraprofessional development. 


Refugee Populations – Narratives from the Yezidi

Derek Farrell


In August 2014 Islamic State attacked Sinjar, Northern Iraq carrying out human atrocities on the Yezidi population. Yezidi female survivors were also taken as sex slaves by Jihadist fighters with some being returned via escape or through government hostage negotiation. This highly traumatised population has been split into two distinct groups – one remaining in Kurdistan and the second taken to Germany for treatment. An exploration as to the wider consequences of this will be discussed in particular regard to evidence-based trauma treatment interventions. The implications for EMDR Therapy will be outlined in terms of symptom reduction, stabilisation, trauma confrontation and community protective factors that promote resilience.


Working with EMDR in the hot spots of refugees arrivals

Isabel Fernandez


The contribution of the EMDR community to the latest critical and massive events occurring in Europe will be described, since EMDR therapy is having a role ofgreat interest working with victims of terroristic attacks and with the refugees and asylum seekers in march.

According to research and International guidelines EMDR therapy can give a great contribution to refugees to prevent mental disorders, resolving risk factors and facilitating integration and adjustment to a new culture, using and transforming the critical experiences that this population is exposed to in a constructive way.

EMDR treatment is implemented in this humanitarian emergency and with populations exposed to terroristic attacks in the different phases of trauma, individually and in groups. EMDR clinicians throughout Europe have been involved with different purposes:

-     To intervene in acute phase of traumatization related to critical incidents, reduction of arousal reactions, prevent the accumulation of traumatic stress

-     To intervene with refugees to reduce risk factors for mental and emotional disorders

-     To intervene with the groups in order to enhance resources and protection factors

-     To process trauma occurred before, during and after the flight

-     To intervene with personnel that has been exposed to high levels of stress related to their humanitarian work

-     To prepare refugees to have further psychological support in European countries, through EMDR Europe network.

EMDR treatment is easily implemented with the help of a translator, it has been widely used already with translators in European countries in the last 15 years. The EMDR protocol has been appropriately adapted and integrated, without difficulties while working in unstable conditions, with refugees coming from different cultures, religions and languages.