Psychological Rehabilitation of Ex-combatants in Non-Western, Post-conflict Settings

  • Anna Maedl
  • Elisabeth Schauer
  • Michael Odenwald
  • Thomas Elbert


Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs are part of most international peace-building efforts and post-conflict interventions in developing countries. Well over a million former combatants have participated in DDR programs in more than 20 countries, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The impact, however, has remained disappointing.

A significant portion of ex-combatants suffer from mental-health issues, caused by repeated exposure to severe psychological distress. Individuals with PTSD, depression, substance dependence, or psychotic conditions are heavily impaired in their daily functioning. It is often difficult for them to reintegrate into civilian society, and they are less able to support the process of reconciliation and peace-building within their communities and postwar areas at large. Others, who as child combatants adapted to a culture of violence and aggression, have never been taught the moral attitudes and the behavioral repertoire that are required in peaceful settings. These failures to adjust fuel cycles of violence that might reach across generations.

Psychological components of DDR programs are frequently neither sufficiently specific nor professional enough to address reintegration failure and the threat of continuing domestic or armed violence. This chapter presents examples from post-conflict settings, in which specific and targeted mental-health interventions and dissemination methods have been successfully evaluated, including Narrative Exposure Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy. It suggests a comprehensive, community-based, DDR program, which offers mental-health treatment for affected individuals, as well as community interventions to facilitate reintegration and lasting peace.


Host Community Armed Group Child Soldier Narrative Exposure Therapy Traditional Ritual 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Maedl
    • 1
  • Elisabeth Schauer
    • 2
    • 3
  • Michael Odenwald
    • 1
  • Thomas Elbert
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.University of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  3. InternationalKonstanzGermany

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