Disasters and Recovery: Traumas of war, displacement and violence.

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
July 19, 2021 - August 18, 20217/19 - 8/184 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineSarit Lesser

Course Description

This course provides an extensive overview of psychological trauma and post traumatic stress that arise as a result of war, displacement, conflict, and violence.

This course is designed to explore the mental health consequences of these disasters, including risk factors and protective factors, as well as unique cultural, ethnic, and religious factors that effect the development of trauma and its recovery. To do this, students will read a combination of theoretical and empirical psychological material as well as international relations/political dynamics. We will also use films and documentaries as part of this exploration.

We will deepen our understanding of several conflict-affected countries (past and present) and review evidence regarding the impact of trauma on individuals and groups in these areas. We will learn how theoretical approaches and framework of trauma can help us analyze its impact on civilians. We will explore evidence-based treatments, including individual, family, groups and system approaches, for trauma-effected populations in Israel and Palestine, with Syrian refugees, in Rwanda, South-Africa, and the Balkans.

War has a catastrophic effect on the health and well-being of nations. It destroys communities and families, and causes long-term physical and psychological harm to children and adults. In this course we will focus on the psychological effect of trauma and post-trauma. Through greater understanding of the mental health problems that arise, effective strategies for recovery can be developed.

Some issues we will focus on include review of the symptoms of trauma, the difference between psychological first-aid and treatment of post-trauma, how religious and cultural factors can be incorporated into treatment and support recovery, and the different approaches for treatment, from individual - children or adults - and family treatments, to groups and systems. Utilizing research studies, daily news publications, movies and documentaries, students will explore processes like narrative therapy and play therapy, affect and somatic regulation, family-centered treatment, and trauma systems therapy. We will look at the role of system approaches, like restorative justice, in the healing of trauma. Students will research the work of organizations around the world that address the treatment of trauma on the ground (Physicians for Human Rights, Humanity Now, etc.) to learn about the work of these organizations currently, for example, their work with Syrian refugees in Greece. Students will also hear from individuals from these organizations who do this work, directly.

Throughout the course, students will engage in writing their thoughts and feelings in response to their reading, experiences, or any new information, as a way of explore their learning process and gain self-knowledge. In addition, students will have 1-2 writing assignments.

For their final project, students will develop and present interventions for treatment of trauma-exposed populations in conflict-effected areas in the world. In this group project, student will focus on a conflict and its most vulnerable populations, and will customize a plan within a specific cultural and religious context, to address trauma.

As a result of completing this course, students will
* Gain greater understanding of mental health consequences of war, displacement, conflict, and violence,
* Review evidence regarding the impact of trauma on populations in several conflict-effected countries,
* Explore evidence-based treatments of trauma-effected populations - individual, family, groups and system approaches,
*Become familiar with organizations that support trauma-effected populations,
* Utilize theory and data to develop interventions for treatment.

Prerequisites: Some knowledge of current political conflicts around the world will be helpful but not required.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPY0967

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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