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Table of Contents
Year : 2023  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 84-85

Groupwork with Refugees and Survivors of Human Rights Abuses: The Power of Togetherness by Boyles, Ewart-Biggs, Horn and Lamb. London: Imprint Routledge

Medical Anthropologist, consultant

Date of Submission15-Mar-2023
Date of Acceptance15-Mar-2023
Date of Web Publication27-Apr-2023

Correspondence Address:
PhD Marian Tankink
Medical Anthropologist, consultant

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/intv.intv_8_23

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How to cite this article:
Tankink M. Groupwork with Refugees and Survivors of Human Rights Abuses: The Power of Togetherness by Boyles, Ewart-Biggs, Horn and Lamb. London: Imprint Routledge. Intervention 2023;21:84-5

How to cite this URL:
Tankink M. Groupwork with Refugees and Survivors of Human Rights Abuses: The Power of Togetherness by Boyles, Ewart-Biggs, Horn and Lamb. London: Imprint Routledge. Intervention [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 May 29];21:84-5. Available from: http://www.interventionjournal.org//text.asp?2023/21/1/84/375063

Editor(s): Jude Boyles, Robin Ewart-Biggs, Rebecca Horn and Kirsten Lamb. Published 2022, London: Imprint Routledge

2023 (260 pages) DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003192978, eBook ISBN9781003192978.

Paperback: GBP £31.99, Hardback: GBP £130.00.

The Open Access version of this book is available at www.taylorfrancis.com

This inspiring book − where social reconnection in groupwork is at the core of recovery − is a must-read because “wgroupwork featured here too. Ine don’t heal in isolation” (p. 51). It demonstrates the power of human connection. The book addresses different types of groupwork with refugees, communities and survivors of human rights abuses in different settings all over the world. This book is a collection of 20 contributions divided into three sections covering: (1) community-based approaches and survivor-led approaches; (2) groups that work through the medium of “body and soul”, such as arts, sport and nature; and (3) group approaches that focus on change through the spoken word.

The emphasis on practice in this book makes each contribution very lively and easy to read and understand. The theoretical approaches used in the different types of groupwork are diverse, but are presented in such a way that the focus remains on the practitioners and the groups. They represent a wide range of settings, such as torture rehabilitation services, refugee camps and reception centres as well as communities. This book is relevant for anyone who works with groups because of the creativity, diversity of approaches and variety of participants and contexts. As the icing on the cake, each section concludes with a discussion between an editor and some authors of that section. The number of contributions and the richness of the content make it hard to review the book. Giving them all the attention they deserve in the limited number of words is impossible. As a result, this book review provides an overview of the main topics and ideas in the three sections.

If one thing is clear from the eight chapters of the book’s first section − on building communities − it is that human rights abuses isolate people and take away a sense of belonging. Groups, on the other hand, provide opportunities for people to rediscover human connection, humanity, community and a sense of belonging. Even refugees with different cultural backgrounds who come together in a group experience a feeling of togetherness and connection. All the chapters here feature examples of the fact that “a form of social cohesion is essential for survival and a dignified life” (p. 58). Although the groups are diverse and have different perspectives and settings, they all act as safe places where people can connect with a sense of self and others (p. 83).

The second section on “body and soul” turns the spotlight onto non-verbal approaches in groupwork. The seven chapters in this section feature groupwork in refugee or asylum seekers centres in Europe. All the activities described demonstrate that creativity is vital in helping people understand what happened or is still happening to them. Several approaches are mentioned, including artwork, theatre, expression with the body, storytelling, trauma-sensitive yoga, mindful movement groups as well as groups for a specific population, such as the LHBTQ group. Disconnection from the body can also lead to disconnection from others and preventing the development of healthy and boundaried relationships (p. 123). An important element of art-making is to rediscover joy, laughter and playing together. Very different types of groups are described, as well as the types of activities and arts used. A football team, for example, is more than the game itself. Players travel and eat together and share changing rooms and showers. In a garden group, plants can be used as metaphors, standing for the losses experienced or for new hope and the future. A garden can be a place where women who have been raped can safely garden in a mixed-gender group at moderate psychological and physical distance. As one of the authors points out, as many refugees have done gardening in their home country, this type of activity connects their previous life with their current life. Non-verbal approaches help “to process the trauma without having to go into it” (Hearns, p. 183).

The final section is called “Together through talk”. It has five chapters and an authors’ discussion. It includes the only example of a faith-based groupwork in the book. The title of the section is slightly misleading as it turns out that non-verbal forms are key elements in the groupwork featured here too. In “Sew to speak” for example, the participants first sew their story they have no words to speak about what they have sewn.

Almost all the groupwork featured in the book uses non-verbal tools, showing that information conveyed in non-verbal ways is very effective in creating changes in people’s thoughts and the behaviour. It is an essential addition to direct communication because the information is absorbed by other parts of the brain and, therefore, complex relationships, patterns and structures can holistically be grasped.

As a final comment, the book demonstrates that lay facilitators and the participants themselves play an important role in the process, as people in the community-based sociotherapy group in Rwanda say: “you heal me, I heal you” (p. 56). In the course of the groupwork presented in the book, the therapists become less important than the participants in the process of recovery. It always comes back to humanity and feeling connected.


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