alexa Psychiatry, testimony, and Shoah: Reconstructing the narratives of the muted.


Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy

Author(s): Greenwald B, BenAri O, Strous RD, Laub D

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Abstract A 1999 examination of approximately 5000 long-term psychiatric patients in Israel identified 725 as Holocaust (Shoah) survivors. Review of these cases has shown that these patients had not been treated as a unique group, and that their trauma-related illnesses had been neglected in their decades long treatment. We discovered that many of these patients had never openly shared their severe persecution history. We postulated that many of them could have avoided lengthy if not life-long psychiatric hospitalization had they been able to openly share that history. Instead, those gruesome and traumatic experiences remained encapsulated, split-off, causing the survivor to lead a double-life. These patients may physically inhabit the world as psychogeriatric patients, though emotionally they may remain in adolescence or childhood due to early traumatic experiences. Some twenty-six patients at two institutions gave consent to be interviewed by a professional team and have their testimonies recorded on videotape. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of video testimony as a potential useful psychotherapeutic clinical intervention. By videotaping testimonies of these patients' experiences before, during, and after World War II, we had created highly condensed texts that could be interpreted on a multiplicity of levels going far beyond the mere narrative content of clinical medical history. Joint observation, reiteration, and discussion of these testimonies with staff members and the patients themselves has been not only an interesting experience, but also one of therapeutic value yet to be fully appreciated. This article was published in Soc Work Health Care and referenced in Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy

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