The Cambodian Lotus Thrives Under a California Sun: How a Mental Health Clinic Partnered with a Khmer Buddhist Temple to Reach Killing Fields Refugees Living in California
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Suffering and loss are universal elements of the human condition. But so are hope and healing. This narrative discusses the partnership between academic psychiatry, a community mental health program, and a local Khmer Buddhist temple in an effort to rebuild lives broken by the Cambodian war and genocide. The key elements of this partnership found their foundation in the personal stories of the individuals involved in the project as much as in the missions of the agencies that partnered together. In order to effectively work with Cambodian survivors of genocide, cultural sensitivity was so essential that this partnership used unorthodox methods by Western standards yet reached a population otherwise poorly receptive to mental health interventions. Mindfulness meditation, co-led by Khmer Buddhist monks and Khmer mental health professionals, bridged the gap between East and West to make this partnership blossom. Meanwhile the personal stories of the monks, the Khmer clinicians, and patients became a cornerstone of the program, creating a unique healing experience.
KeywordsPosttraumatic stress disorder Cross-cultural psychiatry Cambodia Killing Fields Mindfulness meditation Community psychiatry Torture survivor Buddhism Interdisciplinary Cultural sensitivity
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