Being a 'barefoot therapist' in a time of war

Offering support to traumatised and tortured children and adults

  • Valerie Sinason
Keywords: refugees, trauma, relational therapy


In 1976, as a poet of 30, I was responding to the murder of President Allende in Chile in 1973 and the attacks on women protesters fighting the regime of Pinochet. I was profoundly affected by the realisation that while one group of similar-minded people could be joyously on holiday, just a short geographic distance away, a similar group could be facing unbearable trauma. Professionals working in a time of upheaval can sometimes take a dissociative defence in exaggerating the difference in their lives compared to the lives of those they are trying to help. Working with extreme trauma in a range of countries can break down those defences so that we see the commonality in the human condition. Whether religious or not, this is best expressed by the 16th century phrase ascribed to John Bradford, ‘there, but for the grace of God go I!’. The wish to blame the other for their hurricanes, floods, wars, and torture is significant. Even secular insurance companies do not insure against ‘acts of God’.


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How to Cite
Sinason, V. (2022). Being a ’barefoot therapist’ in a time of war: Offering support to traumatised and tortured children and adults. Psychotherapy & Politics International, 20(4), 1-15.