Germany: Child refugees receive therapy to fight trauma

An institute in Saarbruecken is providing intensive, short-term practical therapy sessions for young asylum seekers.

by

    Saarbruecken, Germany - Like most who have fled conflict, Ali's path to asylum in Germany from Afghanistan has not been easy.

    The 17-year-old orphan slept in public toilets for two years and has been working for a living since the age of five.

    The trauma of war and the long journey to asylum still haunts the teenager. Evidence of his childhood ordeal is on display in the form of paintings on the walls of his room.

    "My life has been marked by very negative events until now," Ali told Al Jazeera. "Nobody helped me in Iran or the other countries I was in.

    "These events haunt me, so I am trying to express this in my paintings."

    To help unaccompanied minors like Ali adjust to life in Germany, an institute in the city of Saarbruecken is providing an intensive short-term practical therapy called START.

    The emotion management scheme is tailored to the needs of young refugees, letting them realise and express their feelings openly.

    The professor who designed it says it is simple and effective.

    "It helps rapidly and this is what they need to experience, because these patients are sometimes very distrustful of psychiatry," psychotherapist Eva Moehler said.

    "So if they experience fast help and think after one session, 'Wow I can do this and this really helps and I can stop cutting myself or can stop pulling my hair out', it really helps."

    Just five weeks ago, Ali would repress emotions and thoughts related to his traumatic past, but now he expresses them on paper. 


    READ MORE: The Syrian refugee giving back to Germany


    Hundreds of thousands of child refugees were admitted into Germany last year as part of the government's humanitarian open-door policy.

    Although many suffer from trauma, most do not receive the sort of care on offer in Saarbruecken.

    Psychotherapist Andrea Dixius believes the environment at the institute is integral to the therapy's success.

    "These children need surroundings that will help validate them," Dixius said. "They shouldn't all be looked at as potential perpetrators of violent acts.

    "The important thing is to integrate them and help them to do so."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.