Psychosocial Capacity Building in Response to Disasters

Psychosocial Capacity Building in Response to Disasters

JOSHUA L. MILLER
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/mill14820
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  • Book Info
    Psychosocial Capacity Building in Response to Disasters
    Book Description:

    Disaster responders treat more than just the immediate emotional and psychological trauma of victims: they empower individuals and families to heal themselves long into a disaster's aftermath. This requires helping survivors to rebuild their ability to meet their emotional and psychological needs, not only for themselves but also for others, which necessitates a careful consideration of survivors' social, economic, and political realities as their communities heal and recover.

    This comprehensive book integrates Western mental health approaches and international models of psychosocial capacity building within a social ecology framework, providing practitioners and volunteers with a blueprint for individual, family, group, and community interventions. Joshua L. Miller focuses on a range of disasters at local, regional, national, and international levels. Global case studies explore the social, psychological, economic, political, and cultural issues affecting various reactions to disaster and illustrate the importance of drawing on local cultural practices to promote empowerment and resiliency. Miller encourages developing people's capacity to direct their own recovery, using a social ecology framework to conceptualize disasters and their consequences. He also considers sources of vulnerability and how to support individual, family, and community resiliency; adapt and implement traditional disaster mental health interventions in different contexts; use groups and activities to facilitate recovery as part of a larger strategy of psychosocial capacity building; and foster collective grieving and memorializing. Miller's text examines the unique dynamics of intergroup conflict and the relationship between psychosocial healing, social justice, and peace and reconciliation. Each chapter ends with a mindfulness exercise, and a section reviews practitioner self-care.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51976-2
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Boxes, Figures, Tables, and Appendices
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xx)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  6. 1 THE SOCIAL ECOLOGY OF DISASTERS
    (pp. 1-31)

    A HURRICANE SWEEPS across the Florida Keys, damaging homes, businesses, and roads, injuring and killing people. In northern Uganda, a civil war rages for more than twenty years, resulting in many deaths, maimings, and the forcible abduction of children as soldiers and concubines. The majority of the population is relocated to internally displaced persons camps (IDPs). In Sichuan Province, China, an earthquake levels villages, collapses schools, and triggers avalanches, leaving nearly one hundred thousand people dead and many more displaced. The Asian tsunami kills nearly a quarter million (World Health Organization, 2005) in more than ten countries, some at peace...

  7. 2 RESPONDING TO DISASTERS: THE FIELD OF DISASTER MENTAL HEALTH AND THE ROLE OF HELPING PROFESSIONALS
    (pp. 32-56)

    EVEN THE MOST RESILIENT among us feel overwhelmed in the aftermath of disaster, when resources are lost or destroyed, routines disrupted, and social networks frayed. Along with experiencing physical reactions and behavioral alterations, individuals often have confused thinking and overwhelming affect. This is evident in large-scale disasters, such as those described in the preface and chapter 1, when infrastructure is destroyed and the social fabric shredded, and also true of smaller, more localized disasters, such as a fatal car accident, homicide, or fire resulting in the death of many residents.

    In the immediate wake of a disaster, normal coping mechanisms...

  8. 3 CONCEPTUALIZING DISASTERS
    (pp. 57-84)

    HAVING PROVIDED an overview and critique of the field of disaster mental health in chapter 2, I consider the nature of disasters, particularly different categories of disasters, in this chapter. Classic typologies group disasters into at least two categories, natural and human caused, with the latter often being subdivided into categories with titles such as technological, complex, terrorism, armed conflict, mass violence, and acts of omission and commission (Halpern & Tramontin, 2007; Rosenfeld et al., 2005; Van den Eynde & Veno, 1999). What do these categories mean and what are the implications for responders? Are they valid conceptual baskets? Is...

  9. 4 THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF DISASTERS: THE IMPACT ON INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES
    (pp. 85-112)

    WE HAVE CONSIDERED the role of the helping professional in response to disaster and how we can conceptualize disaster; this chapter examines its impact, focusing on the psychosocial effects. This exploration involves reviewing research that classifies reactions, such as stress reaction or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—in a sense, reviewing the epidemiology of different bio-psycho-social responses. However, as should be clear by now, the presumption of universal reactions should not be taken for granted, and I interrogate the social and cultural filters that mediate experiences of disasters. Also, it is crucial to consider the subjective/phenomenological experiences of people in response...

  10. 5 SOURCES OF RESILIENCY
    (pp. 113-135)

    CONSIDERING THE TERRIBLY destructive consequences of disaster, it is perhaps remarkable that so many people recover from catastrophe as well as they do. Large numbers of people exposed to potentially traumatogenic events are still able to have positive emotional experiences and move beyond minor or temporary disruptions in their lives (Bonanno, 2004). Individuals, families, and communities have an impressive capacity for absorbing, processing, and reconstructing meaning after experiencing devastating losses. This is not to minimize the pain, sadness, and often indelible wounds—material, physical, and psychic—inscribed by disasters; they are events fraught with tragedy. Yet not only do most...

  11. 6 VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: RISK, RESILIENCY, AND HOW TO HELP
    (pp. 136-152)

    EVERYONE IS AT RISK when there is a disaster, but some are at greater risk than others. This chapter considers five groups that have unique risk factors as a function of their social positioning and the dynamics of oppression. These include women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and those disadvantaged by virtue of race, ethnicity, or social class. Each of these groups is heterogeneous, and it is important to be wary of generalizations. Also at play is intersectionality—the connections between different aspects of identity and forms of social oppression (Miller & Garran, 2007). For example, gender interacts with age,...

  12. 7 DISCOURSES OF DISASTER RESPONSE AND RECOVERY
    (pp. 153-189)

    THE CAPACITY OF PEOPLE and communities to rebound from the adversity of disaster is remarkable. Nevertheless, there is a role for professionals and volunteers from both inside and outside of the community to aid in recovery when there has been a disaster. Throughout human history, there are people who foster healing or who help people find meaning in destructive events: shamans, spiritualists, faith healers, herbalists, elders, priests, and alchemists, right up to the present-day array of medical, psychological, social work, and religious and spiritual personnel who respond to disasters. An aspect of collective resiliency is the availability of specialized people...

  13. 8 PSYCHOSOCIAL CAPACITY BUILDING
    (pp. 190-219)

    THIS CHAPTER DESCRIBES psychosocial capacity building (PCB) and provides two case examples of it in action: one involving construction workers assigned to Ground Zero in New York City after 9/11 and the other involving the Acholi, who experienced twenty years of armed conflict in northern Uganda. The groundwork for this chapter is laid in chapter 5, which focuses on resiliency. Respecting and fostering resiliency is a cornerstone of PCB. Psychosocial capacity building encompasses the types of disaster responses described in chapter 7 but goes beyond individual and small-group interventions in the immediate and short-term aftermath, involving organizational, systemic, and community-level...

  14. 9 THE USE OF GROUPS AND ACTIVITIES
    (pp. 220-246)

    WHEN DISASTER STRIKES in developed Western nations, trained counselors and therapists generally are available. They tend to work for disaster response organizations or serve as volunteers with nonprofits or professional crisis response networks. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, they usually provide services such as psychological first aid, crisis intervention, critical incident stress management, and short-term counseling. During the postdisaster phases, ongoing therapy and counseling (either individual or group) may be provided. Many practitioners use cognitive behavioral techniques (CBT), while others prefer more psychodynamically oriented approaches. There are also services for those who are grieving and mourning. Such services...

  15. 10 RESPONDING TO DISASTERS CAUSED BY INTERGROUP CONFLICT
    (pp. 247-282)

    In many ways, the most complex disasters to respond to are those involving intergroup conflict, which in their extreme form are manifested as armed clashes, wars, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, genocide, forced migrations, or terrorism. These terms carry embedded meanings when viewed through the prism of group positioning (“we and they,” “us and them,” “internal and external,” “good and evil”) and are always contested by conflicting groups—reflecting the dynamics of the conflict as one group seeks to legitimize acts of violence toward another. Intergroup conflict:

    Is fueled by cultural myths, stereotypes, and historical legacies

    Influences how people construct social identities...

  16. 11 COLLECTIVE MEMORIALIZING
    (pp. 283-299)

    DEATH IS DIFFICULT to accept and process even when it announces its arrival, as with long-term fatal illnesses. However, disasters involve sudden and multiple deaths, which is all the more challenging. In chapter 4, in a consideration of postdisaster bereavement, I compare different conceptual models of grief and mourning and emphasize the centrality of culture in making sense of death while providing guidelines and signposts for mourners. This chapter further pursues that discussion by reflecting on the process of collective memorializing, looking at public expressions, and understanding symbols of grieving and remembrance.

    All cultures have a private aspect of grief...

  17. 12 DISASTER DISTRESS AND SELF-CARE
    (pp. 300-319)

    ALL DISASTERS, whether large or small, have the potential to unsettle and even wound those who take action to help others. Those responding to a major disaster are transported outside of the parameters of their usual experience—whether the responder is a professional or a volunteer, a veteran or a rookie. One’s senses are aroused, familiar supports and landmarks disappear, and the environment is frequently chaotic if not dangerous. Responders are witness to severe destruction and great suffering. Social systems have broken down, social networks may be in tatters, and the usual rules governing social behavior are suspended. This has...

  18. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 320-326)

    THIS BOOK begins with a vignette describing work with a Vietnamese American family living on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The encounter produced more questions than answers, and I recognize that while this book has grappled with some of those questions, many still remain. Psychosocial capacity building will never be science, although it can be informed by scientific inquiry and evaluation; it always involves a certain degree of creativity and spontaneity, which is inherent in collaboration. And collaboration is at the heart of psychosocial capacity building. Questions inform such inventiveness.

    The book defines the process of...

  19. REFERENCES
    (pp. 327-348)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 349-358)