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Working Collaboratively in Rwanda

Posted on: Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

We had spent Monday with Glenda and some graduates from “the island” hearing about their experiences in general and of the counselling process specifically. These young men reside at Hope Home run by Hopethiopia/Rwanda. Their insight was really helpful in tailoring our presentation. In addition, we started the training by taking some time to hear about the setup of the psychologists work on the island, their rotations, their obstacles, their successes, their case consultation process and their therapies of choice.

Of the almost 40 clinical psychologists, some worked primarily with AIDS sufferers, some with domestic violence and rape victims and the remaining majority spent half their time on Iwawa (the island) and the other half at the military hospital providing counselling to a variety of clients. At Iwawa counselors run groups and provided individual counselling daily with a weekly case consultation. The therapies of choice included CBT, psychoanalysis and humanistic. The approach to addiction was focused on abstinence models.

There were so many successes shared including increased number of psychologists who got to go to the island, the many uplifting stories of changed lives and addiction free youth and countless stories of genocide survivors helped through the outreach programs conducted countrywide. Major obstacles included the sheer numbers of clients, limited personnel and burnout.

Our training objectives were three fold: de-stigmatizing mental illness, empowering both the client and therapist with many tools against problems and promoting a harm reduction model when working with addictions.

And we did all this through translators… what fun we had using three different translators over the four days to communicate post modern ideas, especially as expressed through Narrative Therapy. Jeremy focused on showing what was happening in the brain during mental illness, utilizing mindfulness to regain control and regulate emotions and portraying addiction as a normal out of balance regulation experience that can be corrected especially with increased connection such as is demonstrated at Hope Home with their 73% success rates of non-relapse.

We enjoyed sharing in lunch together and setting the tone of being colleagues. There was a lot of discussion, questions and healthy feedback. We challenged our friends, encouraged them and joined them in commiserating about the stress of doing our jobs as counselors with limited resources. The books we donated on behalf of many of you were very much appreciated and there was a commitment made to continue collaborating in the future.

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