• Millions of people around the world have experienced psychological distress caused by exposure to armed conflict. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as it is often called, involves a range of normal responses to events outside the realm of normal human experience.
  • Trauma caused by ethnic and other conflict--as distinguished from trauma stemming from natural disasters--can produce profound changes in social and political processes that affect not only the generation that directly experienced the trauma but also subsequent generations. Societies riven by ethnic conflict often expect younger generations to maintain certain mental representations of traumatic historical events and to clearly establish ethnic boundaries that distinguish one traumatized ethnic group from another.
  • The needs of traumatized people take many forms and can be successfully addressed in different ways by a variety of professionals--ranging from psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers to educators, religious clergy, and development practitioners.
  • Trauma training programs are more likely to be successful if they are based on a deep understanding of the complex political, economic, and social forces and events that contributed to the context in which the trauma occurred. Such training programs should be learner centered, highly participatory, and case based, and should incorporate pedagogical techniques that build a team approach to problem solving. Ideally, trauma training programs should also permit advanced experiential learning through closely supervised internships.
  • Trauma recovery is a long-term process requiring periodic assessment of the needs of individuals, their caregivers, and the community of which they are a part. Periodic adjustment of approaches and techniques to respond to evolving needs is necessary. Practitioners providing services to traumatized people also need to be prepared to make long-term commitments to them and to the communities they are seeking to assist.


About the Report

A diverse group of United States Institute of Peace grantees specializing in trauma training in zones of conflict met at Airlie House in Warrenton, Va., in August 2001. Joining them for the two-day workshop were additional trauma training experts, other professionals (including a number of military chaplains) who have worked with trauma victims, and Institute staff.

The primary purpose of the workshop was to share training approaches and perspectives on trauma relief, as well as to establish better communication among experts working in the field. Several Institute grantees made presentations describing their work in the Balkans, the Caucuses, and Africa, while another grantee outlined a training curriculum in trauma relief.

This report was written by Judy Barsalou, director of the USIP's Grant Program.

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policies.

Related Publications

Participatory Action Research for Advancing Youth-Led Peacebuilding in Kenya

Participatory Action Research for Advancing Youth-Led Peacebuilding in Kenya

Thursday, October 11, 2018

By: Illana M. Lancaster; Sahlim Charles Amambia, Felix Bivens, Munira Hamisi, Olivia Ogada, Gregory Ochieng Okumu, Nicholas Songora, Rehema Zaid

One-third of today’s generation of youth—those ages ten to twenty-four—live in fragile or conflicted countries and are susceptible to the sway of ideological narratives of violent extremism. Evidence suggests, however, that they also play active and valuable roles as agents of positive and constructive change.

Youth; Education & Training; Democracy & Governance; Violent Extremism

Montana Students Take on the World

Montana Students Take on the World

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

By: Allison Sturma

The students from Gardiner, Montana’s high school didn’t have much experience in the world beyond “little towns among farmland,” as one of them put it. So, when the mayor of the state capital, Helena, spoke to them as a 1994 refugee from Liberia’s civil war, the link between distant conflict zones and pastoral Montana took on a captivating human form.

Education & Training; Peace Processes

Conflict Management Training for Peacekeepers (French)

Conflict Management Training for Peacekeepers (French)

Friday, February 23, 2018

By: Alison Milofsky; Joseph Sany; Illana M. Lancaster

Ce rapport examine le rôle de la Formation à la gestion des conflits dans la préparation des soldats de la paix aux missions des Nations Unies/de l’Union africaine, à travers une évaluation du programme de Formation à la gestion des conflits pour les soldats de la paix proposée par l’USIP. L’évaluation s’appuie sur des données collectées au travers de 137 entretiens semi-structurés avec des soldats de la paix formés par l’USIP et rentrés au pays, des membres de la communauté dans les zones où des soldats de la paix ont été déployés en mission, et des formateurs de pré-déploiement. Le rapport étudie les résultats de l’évaluation et propose des recommandations non seulement pour la formation de l’USIP à l’intention des soldats de la paix mais aussi pour élargir la portée des politiques et des pratiques en matière de maintien de la paix.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Education & Training

Colombia War-Crime Prisoners Face Past, Plan Future

Colombia War-Crime Prisoners Face Past, Plan Future

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

By: Aubrey Cox; Maria Antonia Montes

The prisoners would be arriving soon and Adriana Combita, like a young teacher preparing to greet a new class, was nervous. This was not the first time that Combita, 26, had led a peacebuilding training with soldiers convicted of war-related crimes. But these were senior officers, commanders with master’s degrees, military officials who had lived abroad.

Education & Training; Human Rights

View All Publications