Journal of Psychology in Africa

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The role of brief–term interventions with South African child trauma survivors

Stacey Leibowitz-Levy


This paper describes an approach to therapeutic intervention with child trauma survivors. Literature is reviewed pertaining to individual treatment approaches in working with traumatised children, including trauma-focussed cognitive-behavioural therapy, play therapy and brief–term interventions. A survey is reported that explores the nature and extent of interventions available in South Africa and highlights the widespread application of modified versions of the Pynoos and Eth interview. Common features across brief-term interventions including a focus on the therapeutic relationship, retelling of the story and a working through or completion phase are highlighted. An integrative intervention model is presented, based on the Pynoos and Eth model, which uses art to facilitate the retelling and working through of the trauma and emphasises creating a narrative for the child that integrates the traumatic experience into a broader life narrative. The approach, which is currently employed with children in a South African clinical setting, is illustrated with a case study. The implications of this approach for the understanding of child trauma survivors and the specific challenges of working within the South African context are explored. The limitations of the approach are addressed and recommendations for a case series, more rigorously exploring the application of this approach are made.

Keywords: child, trauma, brief-term intervention, narrative, art

Journal of Psychology in Africa 2005, 15(2): 155–163
AJOL African Journals Online