Trauma Tour

I have been working as a trauma therapist since 10 years. It’s not an area that many psychotherapists decide to explore in their daily practice, but ever since I can remember it was the most appealing area of psychotherapy for me. And one that is highly unexplored and somehow underrepresented.

One of the reasons why I decided to try Trauma Tour is my exchange with a patient over Twitter. We’ve been talking online for a very long time about her experience, as she cannot come and see me in Belgium. And then I thought, I should be able to go and see her.

We, psychotherapists, stay in our daily practices. We don’t move. We don’t reach out and explain things to people. We do things with individuals - why not try to work with a group, and talk to a group? This is what I’d rather do. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

Eventually I bought a bus. My very first tour this week goes to Ghent, where I already have connected with potential participants. It will be a chance for me to see in what ways I can connect with groups. How to talk to people about trauma? How to equip them with knowledge and capacity to deal with their own experiences? And what could  be a possible model for sustaining the project, as I really want to go far with my tour, reaching the Balkans, Greece, visit communities out there. Ultimately, I’d also like to volunteer in refugee camps and serve with my knowledge and experience there (I do work in an asylum center in Belgium once a week).

During the preparation for the tour I have realised there is a big interest in the topic already - people really want to know more about trauma. I’ve already taken a step towards promoting awareness and dealing with the problem - I wrote a book about trauma last year. The book became quite popular, and it’s now being translated from Dutch to English. It will be available in January, and it is based on common licence, along with the exercises included. This decision is based on my view that psychological knowledge, and therapeutical knowledge, are all based on dozens of years of collective practice and wisdom accumulated which should be available to everyone without limitations, certifications, individualisation…

I need to extend my network now in order to connect with communities and groups that would like to host me. I could be travelling from one place to another this way, knowing there would be support and people to talk to. I need to figure out best ways to sustain myself - travelling for long would cost me my patients, and a source of income. If you’d like to give me a tip, share an idea, help me prepare the tour - leave a comment.

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The wandering therapist

Hello and welcome, @ybe ! This is a suggestive image: a therapist driving her bus into the sunset, looking for traumatized people to help out.

I am curious as any previous attempts of dealing with trauma in groups. I know nothing about psychotherapy, but I do recall that this problem was met by army psychologists in wartimes. Too many traumatized soldiers, not enough therapists. Therapy had to be done in groups (and here is where Wilfred Bion’s intellectual journey starts) . Has this stabilized into standard practice?

As for supporting your activity as a wandering psychotherapist, I guess you are down to two possibilities: charge for your services, and hunt for grants. The first one is by far the better one, for you. Do you foresee any problem in charging patients? Have you run the numbers to figure out how much revenue do you need to generate?

Hello Alberto,

Thank you for your comment.

Group therapy is a quite common part of  a therapy programm in clinical setting (psychiatric hospitals). What I like to do though is help individuals and communities to enhance their knowledge about trauma and foster their resilience in the face of trauma. I am convinced that being ‘trauma-informed’ can help us all cope better with traumatic events in our lives and in the world. We need to talk about trauma and pain more openly. We need to adress trauma and pain more directly, not only in the setting of a psychotherapeutical process.

As for the financial aspects of my touring, I would like to be able to work also with people with little or no ressources. So, I plan to combine normal charging with pay-what-you-can fees. I also plan touring and helping in the refugeecamps of the mediterranean area - that part of my tour needs funding. I did not find extra financial support yet … but I hope I will soon!

Maybe we can help?

I really like the idea of a mixed model. We are now in the middle of a crazy operation to find support for about 150 care-related initatives. Maybe you could be one of them?


yes !

Yes, I am submitting :slight_smile:

Fingers crossed !

models of group trauma management

Hi @Alberto, and thanks for a great and inspiring post, @ybe!

A couple of examples of previous models spring to mind:

  • People used Somatic Experiencing techniques with survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami, and with social service workers after Hurricane Katrina, with some success. Here’s a nice TV spot on it being used in a group setting post-Japan earthquake.

- Somatherapy was developed during the military junta in Brasil as a combination of psychotherapy, capoeira and anarchist theory. It favours use of enjoyable, play-based physical activities and emphasises placing individual mental health within the larger political context.

Predictably enough, given my day job, my bias is towards body-based practices, or at least forms of psychotherapy that incorporate some aspect of physical engagement - I don’t know if @ybe already incorporates these ideas in her practice, and in any case other forms of psychotherapeutic intervention are also very effective.

But the advantages of this kind of approach, as I see it, are:

  • They engage with the somatic anchoring of trauma, bringing quick results.

  • The physical nature of the practices can help overcome language difficulties, which might be useful in a scenario like Calais.

  • They can be applied efficiently in a group setting - rather than waiting their turn to speak, everyone engages in the practices at once.

  • Because individuals can continue to use the exercises outside the therapy session, fewer sessions are necessary, meaning lower costs and/or more people can be seen.

  • Somatherapy in particular also emphasises the importance of group work as part of building a community of solidarity and support in the face of potentially oppressive political situations; moving beyond reliance on external care to develop personal and political assertiveness.

Of course, acupuncture is also used extensively in relation to trauma, either alone or as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Organisations like World Medicine run multibed acupuncture projects in places affected by natural disasters, war and poverty. I know of at least one British acupuncturist treating people in the Calais camp, but perhaps @Alex Levene would know more about that.

Thx @steelweaver for your comment. As for the somatic apporach, I totally agree. I often use somatic experiencing, especially for chock trauma. Before going to Calais, I need to look up soms good group exercices for the volunteers. Suggestions welcome.

Connecting you with @Village-Psy

Hi @ybe, have you read the story of @Village-Psy and the work they do with education on healing trauma on Mt. Pelion, in Greece?

Hello Pavlos, thx. Yes I already read their story and and also the one of Aravella Salonikidou, I left a message for both of them and am waiting for their response. Looks like in Greece a lot of people are doing good work :slight_smile:

Are there cultural differences to account for?

@ybe I’m happy to meet you, my name is Noemi and while I haven’t dealt with the issue at all, maybe this is silly to ask: but I’m wondering if people in different places have own preferences to express themselves, or if language can be an obstacle?

Have you tried getting in touch with Médecins Sans Frontières for a collaboration? I was reading about them offering psychological first aid, but apparently there are not nearly enough people on the ground.

Connecting with local entities en route

Dear @ybe - it’s great to hear of your initiative! Following up on Noemi’s suggestion - I agree that local organizations/groups/individuals on your trail could also be insightful in identifying groups in need of your services, offer insights on any cultural differences, or support you in a number of other ways (including in overcoming language barriers if existant). I was wondering if you have considered mapping your desired/planned route to facilitate connecting with local groups/individuals before you arrive - maybe a very basic online map? I think it could facilitate reaching out to people on the route and could have potential as a planning tool.

indeed a good plan needs a map

Thx @andra.B for your suggestion. I am indeed planning to do that in the next few weeks. I’ll keep you posted :slight_smile:

Ps Where are you living, maybe I can come along and meet you?

I am another you, you are another me

@noemie, thx for thinking along with me.

In my experience (I work in a refugee center in Belgium) there are cultural differences, of course. But aside these differences, we all share humanity and the fact that, in some way or another, we all are familiar with pain, with trauma. Not sharing the same language can be difficult too, but I’ve helped many people talking in a language that is neither their not my mother language. Also, communication is larger than words: expression, visual support, eye contact and even touch can be means of understanding and helping too. When their is no common language, I work with a translator sometimes too.

As for Medecins sans frontières, I applied for a position in the field - but was not accepted. Like many ‘traditional’ NGO’s they have quite rigid and out-of-date conditions of admission - like requiring a master degree in psychology. I have a master in philosophy, 4 years of study in psychotherapy and a specialisation in psychotraumatalogy plus 10 years of experience. Nevertheless I do not meet the ‘official’ requirements. The recognition of psychotherapy as a valid profession is a complex issue and one that is colonized in Belgium by the medical professions, which is the mean reason why people like me, highly skilled psychotherapists,  are not recognized as such. It is a pity that organisations like MsF follow mainstream politics regarding this issue.


One reads about NGOs becoming institutions and not in a good way. This is very hard to digest in the real world, since your mission is supposedly to fix a problem. Sorry to hear about that unfortunate experience, we will be on the lookout for other options.

Hello and welcome @ybe. Thanks for sharing your story.

I know for certain that your experience and skills would be really useful to the volunteer organisations working down at the Calais refugee camp.

Many volunteers have been working out there for the last year and there is a real need for access to professional mental health care.

It will be required even more when the French Authorities start their planned clearance of the camp. At the moment we do not know when this will happen. But the volunteers current support nearly 10000 refugees on the camp and will probably put their lives on the line to help protect the refugees and their things during the eviction. It will certainly be highly emotional and very fraught.


I would be happy to be of help for the Calais volunteers. How could we organise it? What do they need? Information about trauma and about helping traumatized people? 'Help with ‘secondary’ traumatisation (being traumatized by the suffering of others)? An in which way would it be doable - a workshop or a bring-your-questions informal  conversation? Should we provide time for individual help too?How many people are involved?

I could come over for a day or two, or tree in october of november, before touring to the south. I am fluent in EN, DE, FR and NL. Would it be a good idea to skype and talk things through?


I suggest a Skype call early next week. Perhaps Tuesday. you can email me alexalevene[at]gmail[.]com

I’m no longer at the camp but i can definitely put you in contact with the best people to organise with. I know they would be really greatful if you could go along for a few days.

The best use would probably be to spend a day talking to the management team and helping them develop an ongoing practice. Then a couple of days running large group training the daytime and one-to-one sessions in the evening.

There are a lot of people there who have a lot of different personal mental health issues. Its probably a better use of your time to focus on this ‘secondary’ trauma, rather than working with people who have experienced it.


ok sounds like a good plan already

I just send you an email. My mailadress is and skype is chez_filly19

Collaboration idea

Hi @ybe. It’s a long post now so excuseme if I’ve skimmed too much. As @Alexander_Shumsky posted the WeHandU we were talking about the importance of psycological aspects of assistive technology. My experience is that people having sustained a stroke, spinal cord injury or living with MS have a need to talk about it. I’s not what you intend by trauma, but I think it could be interesting include your expertice in a 360* service.

What do you think?

@Rune I think you’re right: psychological aspects should be taken into account. Medical diagnosis and treatment are often very ‘traumatic’ = overwhelmingly disturbing. I don’t know if I am the right person to advise Wehandyou - there must be traumaspecialists more familiar with the people affected by these kinds of  trauma and the technology involved. Nevertheless, I am open to collaboration. Lets have a bit of a longer conversation on skype? What do you think?