Therapeutic dilemmas and human rights violations: the experience of therapists working under extreme traumatization in Chile

Arturo Roizblatt*, Niels Biederman, Jac Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Purpose: This paper seeks to focus on the reflections of therapists who were working professionally in Chile during the time of human right violations in an attempt to inform and to develop ways of working professionally in similar circumstances around the world. Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws on the experiences of therapists who were working in Chile at the time and extrapolates from these experiences to provide suggestions and guidance for other therapists who find themselves in similar circumstances. Findings: After Dr Salvador Allende was overthrown, Chile was governed by a military dictatorship that engaged in massive human rights violations. From the reflections of therapists 30 years later, this paper summarizes some of the psychological consequences of the traumas that therapists faced when dealing with clients who were directly affected by the same trauma. This included feelings of terror following state treachery, amnesia, fear of political resistance and guilt. Practical implications: Therapists in these countries are encouraged to seek the protection of international organizations who deal with human rights violations, work in professional groups rather than isolation, and when challenging human rights violations by conducting therapy, to work similarly to a resistance movement. Social implications: Therapists in countries where there is no repression should form professional alliances with their colleagues in these repressive countries to help protect them and provide support for their ongoing work. Originality/value: This paper highlights the extreme danger that ensues for therapists who simply continue with their work during state sanctioned repression, and how this may be perceived as political statements against the repressive regime. Ways of dealing with this professionally are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)155-161
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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