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Psychosocial Support and Counseling in Gujarat
Bangalore - Earthquake Update Appeal No. 9  (26th Feb 2001)
by Dr. Shailendra

Now that the phase of rescue and acute care is over, one of the important needs of the people in Gujarat is counselling. While there are many to provide material aid in the form of blankets, food and water, temporary housing, etc, there are few who are willing to help people come to terms with the reality of their lives. The need for this is increasing, as individuals are gradually coming to realise the impact of what has happened.

Why psychosocial activities are necessary

Experience shows that psychosocial activities are necessary to stabilise and improve the strong reactions people have in emergency situations. In other words, such activities are necessary to treat "normal reactions" in "abnormal situations". The established framework such as authorities, family and social structures no longer function and the lack of these lead to chaos. Necessary structure and organisation must be reinforced. Psychosocial activities should be take place withing three months after the state of emergency, and the best time is between the first and sixth week after the injury. But even if activities are taken after this time, it will still have a positive effect.

Objectives for psychosocial work

The object for all psychosocial work in difficult emergency situations will be to promote:

    psychosocial functioning

    peace-building and restorative energy


    human rights

    local competence in psychosocial work

    strengthening of the weaker groups

Target groups

Women, children and the elderly must come first Pesons with serious physical damage and psychological trauma must be cared for.


To be used will be to:

    support existing psychological and social protective factors

    strengthen the network

    re-establish trust

    reduce stress factors

    encourage active participation and responsibility within the target group

    strengthen personal abilities so as to bing about personal healing

    crisis intervention in well established groups

    individual approach starting with psysical ailments

    identifying and offering rehabilitation to violent and psychotic persons

    facilitate religious ceremonies

    facilitate rituals for death and sorrow

The methods shall consistently be carried through with cultural sensitivity and respect.

Building an emergency preparedness team for psychosocial activities

In order to attain preparedness for psychosocial work and develop competence, Norwegian Church Aid has established an emergency preparedness team consisting of 10 persons.

1. Identifying the group

Norwegian Church Aid handles the recruiting process and the final approval of the team.

2. Formal and practical competence

Relevant background for persons in this emergency preparedness team is found in either the areas of health, social and diaconal professions or pedagogic competence. In addition we are looking for mature, flexible and robust persons who are used to working independently, who have the ability to mobilise others, organise projects and who also have skills in the areas of teaching, guidance or training. The ability to function in stress situations and the capacity to tackle suffering and discomfort are valuable personal qualities. In order tot qualify for membership in the emergency preparedness team, the candidates must be in a situation both at home and at work that will allow for travel at short notice.

3. Mobilising local co-coperating partners

Members of the psychosocial preparedness team have participated in a training programme. This training programme included knowledge and understanding of the problems at hand, the underlying reasons and proposals for solution. A training package or manual for use in the field will be developed.

Thematic areas of the training programme:

1. Organisational structures and framework

For Norwegian Church Aid: strategies and plans, systems for reporting and other routines, ACT, local co-operating partners.

For the UN system and other organisations and functions in complex emergency situations.

1. Security in complex emergency situations.

2. Why psychosocial work / theoretic understanding

Trauma theory and trauma treatment

How to understand traumatic suffering

About strengthening the strong (resilience research)

The importance of the social milieu

Psychosocial work and human rights

Gender perspective in psychosocial work

Guidance for co-workers

Helping the helpers / guidance and stress management

1. Various approaches in psychosocial work in emergency situations: basic principles and ideas in the development of models within

activities in the local milieu

activities in the network

self help methods

advisory activities

local participation / co-workers

democracy building

bottom up strategies

1. Understanding the cultural context

cross cultural communication - about understanding yourself and others

conflict management and working through conflicts

how to use local, cultural and religious traditions in psychosocial work

gender perspective and family structures

1. How to build partnership and local acceptance of methods in an emergency situation

How to develop methods for problem analysis and common understanding as a basis for methods

Selecting people and co-operating partners in the project

How to nurture and develop available resources.

1. How to build local competence and capacity

Assembling a training programme for local partners:

Training in psychosocial work:

theoretical understanding and methodical approach and development

taking it one step at a time

guidance and development of co-operating partners

Training of other functions in the project:


reporting / evaluating

personnel development

taking care of each other

For details contact: Dr. Shailendra Awale
CMAI Eartquake Relief Office
C/o Hotel King Palace (Room No:303)
Opp. Hotel CAMA

Phone:079-5500282 Fax: 079-5500275 Mobile : 9811-004716