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NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors

Working Clinically with Older People who have Experienced Torture and Refugee Trauma: Treatment Implications for Trauma and Ageing

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Zimra Segall
Social Worker
JewishCare NSW

Amparo Landman

Older people from refugee backgrounds often experience multiple traumatic events and losses. Subsequently they may face multiple challenges that are additional to those of the Australian-born and migrant ageing population. This may include: a higher risk of mental and physical health issues such as PTSD; triggering of their past traumatic memories; depression and anxiety; memory loss due to trauma and ageing; dementia; chronic physical health problems; as well as experiencing complex psychosocial adjustment to the country, loss of customary lifestyle and culture, dignity, identity and pride within their communities. Evidence suggests that cultural bereavement and transition period is much longer with older people from refugee backgrounds than the younger population. They are deprived from what that is known and familiar to them, struggling in the daunting task of adaptation in the new environment.

In this Clinical Master Class, held on 3 April 2023, Zimra Segall, Program Manager at JewishCare NSW, shared her expertise by looking at how earlier, prolonged and major trauma may affect individuals in their older years and how they can be best supported. Although the focus was on Holocaust Survivors, the aim was that the principles of the extensive research on Holocaust Survivors, and the modalities of work with them will serve to inform the work with survivors of other earlier trauma in their older years. The first part of the presentation outlined the main issues faced by survivors of trauma and the triggers in the environment which elicit post-traumatic stress symptoms. The second part looked at the implications of therapeutic work with survivors including the tasks and goals of psychotherapy. The third and concluding section briefly reflected on the impact of the Holocaust on second and third generations, and on the community. Amparo Landman, STARTTS’ Student Clinic Coordinator/Counsellor, demonstrated STARTTS’ work with a case study of one of her older clients.

View the two lectures and panel discussion by clicking on the course content below. When you are finished you can request the system send you a certificate of completion. The slide PDFs are available in the Materials tab.

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