Citizens of the DRC experienced widespread and devastating torture at the hands of both government and rebel soldiers during the wars between 1998 and 2004. Among couples in which both partners survived, many separated or divorced after the war; intact couples suffered tremendous relationship stress; and parents and children struggled with relational and behavioral problems. In this dissertation I explored the experiences of torture-surviving couples who participated in a 10-session multi-couple group therapy (MCGT) intervention in 2008 designed to address the effects of torture and war trauma in Pweto, Katanga, DRC, as well as the feasibility of the intervention. Feasibility components included: acceptability, demand, implementation, practicality, and limited efficacy. Feasibility was found to be good for most components, with challenges mostly related to resources and training. Using critical ethnography as a guideline, I conducted individual or dyadic qualitative interviews with the wife, husband, or both partners of all 13 MCGT couples regarding their pre-war, wartime, and post-war group-related experiences as individuals and in their relationships with each other and with their children. Participants reported wide-ranging and profound negative effects of the war on their individual and relational health; mostly positive experiences, including marital and peer connection and relationship growth during the MCGT; and a number of improvements in mental health at the individual, couple, and family levels post-intervention. Clinical implications include that using relational interventions to promote trauma healing can be beneficial when the approaches are based on principles that inform effective therapies from both trauma treatment and couple treatment fields. Research and capacity-building implications include the need for increased action, rather than continued calls for action, to prioritize funding, research, training, and clinical priorities that match the increasingly clear utility of relational approaches to treating the effects of traumatic stress, including experiences of war and torture.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2015. Major: Family Social Science. Advisor: Elizabeth Wieling. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 267 pages.
Love, War, and Healing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: An Ethnographic Study of Torture-surviving Couples' Experiences in Multi-couple Group Therapy.
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