Addressing the effects of trauma in conflict and post-conflict settings
Despite decades of progress in human rights and conflict prevention, hundreds of millions of people around the world are still vulnerable to trauma due to slavery, trafficking, torture, violent extremism, war, forced displacement, and systemic racism. Today, violent conflicts around the world are at a 50-year high, and more than 82 million people remain forcibly displaced.
Even in the most developed countries, mental health needs vastly outpace the supply of appropriate, evidence-based care. The pandemic has accelerated a global mental health crisis, particularly for those already affected by toxic stress and trauma. In conflict settings and developing countries, access to mental health care and trauma recovery services can be incredibly limited. Still, as more people are impacted by conflict and violence, the need to address trauma in order to prevent health and social crisis grows.
Trauma left untreated can also contribute to continued cycles of violence as individuals navigate a world of heightened threats, dwindling resources, and limited care.
Unaddressed chronic stress and trauma cause adaptations at various nested levels, starting with individual biology and psychology. These changes may be initially adaptive, or in service of successful navigation of danger but can be problematic when they persist after the dangers and threats have passed.
If unaddressed, these adaptations can affect entire social ecosystems, becoming embedded in norms, narratives, and structures, and creating barriers to conflict prevention and resolution.
We conduct research and designs innovations that place stress, trauma, and psychosocial support at the center of how we understand and pursue violent conflict prevention, reduction, and resolution. We strive to understand how the adaptations that trauma produces in individuals and communities influence trajectories of conflict and then intervene on those trauma-related adaptations that jeopardize peace and community cohesion. In this way, we can create enabling environments for sustainable conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding.
We research how trauma causes adaptations that affect individual biology and psychology as well as interpersonal and intergroup behavior, and how those adaptations affect social stability and conflict potential.
We design practical trauma-focused psychosocial interventions to improve how communities prevent, resolve, and recover from violence.
Through original research, policy briefs, talks, and events, we redefine public discourse, philanthropy, policy in order to amplify the role of trauma-focused interventions in peacebuilding and violence prevention.
Our Current and Upcoming Projects
Refugees and Destigmatizing Mental Health in Jordan
The Field Guide for Barefoot Psychology (TFG) is a trauma-focused psychosocial program that uses storytelling, psychoeducation, and self-care exercises delivered across 12-15 sessions by trained peer facilitators to (1) clarify why and how adverse experiences can affect the brain, body, and social behavior, and (2) ameliorate the negative effects of stress and trauma and promote help-seeking behaviors.
TFG was externally evaluated by The New School and the University of California for use among refugees in Jordan and has been shown to cause sustainable improvements in mental health stigma, PTSD symptoms, and emotion regulation. TFG has been deployed in Jordan and Syria since 2019, and in 2021 we launched a customized online platform and accompanying Android and IOS applications to reach individuals with digital psychosocial support in hard-to-reach areas.
Foreign Terrorist Fighter (FTF)
Since 2020, Beyond Conflict has been working with the United States Institute of Peace to develop an action guide for practitioners working in Violent Extremist Disengagement and Reconciliation. The action guide brings together the top minds in the fields of behavioral health, trauma recovery, justice and accountability, and social cohesion to offer an accessible overview of how communities in various settings can safely and sustainably reintegrate those who have participated in extremist violence.
Integrating Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in Central Asia
In 2021, Beyond Conflict partnered with the United Nations Development Program to meaningfully integrate mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) into preventing and countering violent extremism in Central Asia. Beyond Conflict provides technical assistance to UNDP country offices to mainstream mental health and psychosocial support into national extremism prevention agendas and will accompany the offices through the science-informed design of projects that use psychosocial support as the focus for preventing extremism.
Community Violence and Social Cohesion in Central America
Since 2021, Beyond Conflict has worked with Glasswing International in El Salvador to adapt The Field Guide for Barefoot Psychology to create trauma-informed classrooms in some of the most violent communities in the country. The program uses storytelling, psychoeducation, and self-care practices to help teachers understand how chronic stress and trauma affect them personally and may affect their classrooms, and provide specific skills to transfer to their students.