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Testimony as ritual and evidence in psychotherapy for political refugees

Abstract

Testimony as a ritual both of healing and of condemnation of injustice would seem to be a universal phenomenon. The concept of testimony contains both connotations of something subjective or private, and of something objective, judicial, or political. When political refugees give testimony to the torture to which they have been subjected, the trauma story can be given a meaning, can be reframed: private pain is transformed into political dignity. In the context of testimony, shame, and guilt connected with the trauma can be confessed by the victim and reframed. In the transcultural meeting between the political refugee and the Western therapist, the common goal of creating evidence against repression becomes both a meeting place and a joint point of departure. The testimony method is demonstrated by two case histories.

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Agger, I., Jensen, S.B. Testimony as ritual and evidence in psychotherapy for political refugees. J Trauma Stress 3, 115–130 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00975139

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00975139

Key words

  • the testimony method
  • transcultural psychotherapy
  • political refugees
  • torture trauma
  • post-traumatic therapy