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The focus of the project ‘Sociotherapy’ in Burundi is on rehabilitation and effective reintegration of returnees in communities of origin. By using group-sociotherapy, a method where diverse psychosocial problems are discussed in groups, HealthNet TPO aims to achieve the following goals:

  • Rehabilitation of broken interpersonal relationships;
  • Contributing to reconciliation of returnees and residents;
  • Contributing to social cohesion;
  • Learning returnees to work on their self esteem.

Sociotherapy encourages people to participate in social interactions and uses the group as a therapeutic medium; during group sessions where about twelve people come together once a week, participants are invited to discuss their problems over a period of 15 weeks while participating in daily events like preparing food, singing, discussing, playing etc. The sessions are taking place in an informal setting but the overall method is well structured: during the first sessions the objective is to create a sense of ‘safety’. Once people feel safe enough, the focus will be on ‘trust building’ and ‘respect’.  Sociotherapy is working around six key principles; interest, equality, democracy, participation, responsibility and learning-by-doing.[1] Participants are encouraged, once the sociotherapy sessions are over, to become an independent ‘self help group’ and to use their knowledge, efforts and network to discuss/solve practical problems or generate income. Consolata: “ The effect is therefore broader than other approaches that focus on individual treatment. Members of a  sociotherapy group not only share problems but also positive experiences and offer each other mutual support.”

The types of problems that are addressed during  socio therapy sessions  are:

  • Problems of rehabilitation and effective re-integration of returnees in their communities of origin;
  • Dispute-related problems (such as land disputes);
  • Sexual and domestic violence related problems;
  • Upbringing and educational related problems;
  • Women rights related problems;
  • Other conflicts within a community as a result of conflicting believes (e.g. witchcraft etc.).

The effects of group-sociotherapy within a community are closely monitored and statements about ‘reached agreements’ (regarding shared grounds, houses etc) are documented (without interference of administrative authorities). Ultimate goal is that this approach will be adopted in all municipalities of the province in the near future.

The ‘sociotherapy approach’ can be used for different purposes. The aim within sociotherapy is to increase the self supporting capacity among groups of people and to improve general feelings of safety, trust, care and respect; a major purpose is to break the vicious circle of violence.  Consolata: “Even though the approach is applicable in other areas and countries, the way sociotherapy will be implemented depends of the context and specific characteristics of every area and country. Before starting the group sessions a context analysis and mapping exercises at community level are essential in order to make the intervention cultural specific.”   


[1] Annemiek Richter, Théoneste Rutayisire, Theophile Sewimfura, Emmanuel Ngendahayo, 2010 “Psychotrauma, Healing and Reconciliation in Rwanda- The contribution of Community-based Sociotherapy”, African Journal of Traumatic Stress Vol 1 No.2 December 2010, pp 55-63.











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