Photo by Tony Cece

Friday, August 17, 2012

Trauma Team Returns from Kenyan Trip

By Rachel Judy
August 16, 2012

Halfway through a two-week trip to Kenya, Regent University's Trauma Team prepared for a women's conference at a church outside of Nairobi. They were expecting around 100 local women to come for a day of discussing domestic violence. As the conference got underway, more and more women kept coming. In all, 400 Kenyan women showed up that day to learn about issues surrounding domestic violence, as well as dialogue about their own experiences.
Idalia Voigt
Idalia Voigt '11 (Psychology & Counseling).
Photo courtesy of Center for Trauma Studies.

"These women [were] so isolated and alone," said Libby Cutshall, a student in the community counseling graduate program. "The highlight of that moment was when a middle-aged woman came to me and stated, 'You see me, you really see me. Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone.'"

This conference was just one in a series of training events the Trauma Team conducted while in Kenya in July.

Under the supervision of Dr. Benjamin Keyes, director of Regent's Center for Trauma Studies, the team of 22 students, faculty and alumni—all associated with the School of Psychology & Counseling—provided crisis and group counseling and offered training workshops for local mental health professionals, pastors, school children and families in the region.

Much of their trip was arranged in partnership with an orphanage called Into Abba's Arms.

The week prior to their training conferences, the team spent several days working in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp. Formed after internal uprisings in Kenya in 2005, the two-acre camp houses between 1500 and 2000 adults and children. Because of the poverty and close quarters, illness, neglect and sexual trauma are rampant there.

"Nearly all of the children had runny noses from colds, half of them showed signs of poor nutrition and only some of them had shoes," recalled Erik Lohmann, a student in Regent's doctoral in clinical psychology (Psy.D.) program. "It was a place where one had to really step back and assess what they believe about the world and about God."

"Nothing prepares you for the IDP camp," Keyes said. "It's just a sea of people in a very small space."

For some of the students on the trip, this was their first international experience both personally and professionally. "It was good, solid hands on experience for our students to work with families and individuals who have been affected by a severe trauma," Keyes explained. "They're scared going into it. Usually within the first couple of hours, they adjust to the interpreter. They realize they're just talking to other people in other parts of the world and they make the transition. And, they happily discover that not only can they do this, but they can successfully do this."

For Cutshall, the trip was an opportunity to combine service with professional practice. "Education at Regent focuses on being leaders, big or small, in church, in the community, at work, in the United States or abroad. Slowly, but surely, we are inundated with skills that allow us to take a stand, go out into the world and lead as the Lord would have us," she said. "In conjunction with my own life experiences and the advanced trauma trainings at Regent, I felt prepared to identify trauma and grief, assess symptoms of PTSD, offer coping skills, deal with compassion fatigue and offer psycho-educational knowledge to people who otherwise had none, all the while surrounded by an amazing team willing and able to offer an ear when needed."

Lohmann agreed. "As a Psy.D. student, I wanted to find a way to gain experience in the field of psychology and in trauma psychology, but at the same time wanted to continue finding ways to serve others," he said. "I decided to go on this trip when I realized that going would help me accomplish both of those goals."
Learn more about the Center for Trauma Studies.

Mindy Hughes, Public Relations

Phone: 757.352.4095 Fax: 757.352.4888

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