Stories of trauma in family therapy with refugees: Supporting safe relational spaces of narration and silence

De Haene, L,; Rousseau, C,; Kevers, R.; Deruddere, N.; Rober, P. (2018)

Clinical child psychology and psychiatry

23(2) | 258-278

With the sharp increase of refugees’ arrival and resettlement in western communities, adequate mental health care forms a pivotal dimension in host societies’ responses to those individuals and communities seeking protection within their borders. Here, clinical literature shows a growing interest in the development of family therapy approaches with refugees, in which therapeutic practice engages with the pivotal role of refugee family dynamics in posttrauma reconstruction and adaptation in resettlement and aims at supporting posttrauma reconstruction through strengthening capacities to restore safety, meaning and connectedness within family relationships. In this article, we focus on the narrative restoration of meaning as central mode of posttrauma reparation and explore its specific dynamics and relational complexities in the context of therapeutic practice with refugee families. Hereto, we integrate theoretical and clinical scholarly work on trauma narration and its intersection with empirical findings on trauma communication in refugee families. Furthermore, we develop case reflections to illustrate different processes of engaging with trauma narration in refugee family therapy. This analysis develops an understanding of the multivoiced ways in which refugee families engage with traumatic suffering through different modes of expression that may entail both narration and silence and explores how family therapeutic practices can engage and mobilize voices of narration and silence as relational stories of restoration.