Since 1986 there has been an unrelenting and brutal war in the Northern districts of Uganda, led by the rebel group called the “Lord’s Resistance Army”. Studies by vivo have repeatedly shown that the psychological consequences of these two decades of war and terror are still ongoing: Despite the fact that the fighting ended in 2005, many survivors cannot forget their experiences and continuously relive them in the form of intruding memories, nightmares and flashbacks. For them, the war continues in their minds. Furthermore, this long-lasting war has shattered social norms of non-violent interactions, which manifests in severe cases of violence within families and communities and thus leads to further traumatization.
In April 2011, vivo established the „vivo Outpatient Clinic for Survivors of Violence and Trauma“ to provide sustainable therapeutic support to survivors of traumatic experiences. This outpatient clinic is supported by the UN (namely the UNVFVT). In addition to the mental health treatments provided in other vivo projects, this outpatient clinic enables vivo to take in and treat clients who have been referred by partner organizations or who are seeking help on their own initiative. A total number of 14 Ugandan therapists are working for the outpatient clinic. Every day, therapy takes place in the counselling rooms of the outpatient clinic. At the same time, a mobile outreach team provides treatment in the more remote areas of Northern Uganda. Those trauma survivors living furthest away from centralised services are the most marginalised group of people and need even more mental health rehabilitation services. The majority of clients seeking help at the outpatient clinic are former child soldiers and formerly abducted persons. However, an increasing number of children and women who survived sexual violence during the war and/or sexual and physical violence within their families are seeking psychological treatment at our counselling centre.
The mental health rehabilitation services offered by the outpatient clinic comprise a thorough psychodiagnostic interview, trauma-focused therapy (Narrative Exposure Therapy – NET), emergency interventions for acute familial or sexual violence as well as supportive counselling and family mediation. In the past two years, this trauma-focused outpatient clinic has evolved into a well-established contact point, which is evidenced by constantly high numbers of referrals by other organizations. Since its establishment, a total number of more than 300 clients have been benefiting from the services of the outpatient clinic. Standard evaluations carried out by vivo six to eight months after ending the therapies show significant reduction of trauma-related mental health symptoms.