Psychosocial Resilience and Capacity Building in Northwest Iraq

Group work during the VBC training in Iraq
Iraq is a country that has been heavily affected by war, leading to severe psychosocial and social effects on its people. There exists a massive need for psychosocial support. Especially for those communities, who had to go through the occupation of ISIS. Together with Caritas Iraq, Ipso is committed to support the vulnerable population, so that the people can regain agency in their lives. Ipso is training 21 Caritas employees, as well as two Kurdistan Regional Government psychologists, to become Value Based counsellors. Later on – after completing the training and gaining their certificates – they will then offer counselling services to clients who come to them directly or are referred by primary health care centres and various NGOs. Furthermore, in order to strengthen the psychosocial resilience of conflict-affected households in a sustainable way, Ipso also trains Caritas Iraq staff to build and set up sustainable low threshold support groups, offered by local volunteers – we call them Community Care Givers. Both trainings are funded by Caritas Germany with support of the German Government (BMZ). This Ipso training in Value Based Counselling (VBC) is the first training of this length and solidity in Iraq, as previous trainings received by MHPSS (Mental Health and Psychosocial Support) staff were limited to a duration of a few days up to two weeks max. For many clients, this type of mental health support by a person with limited training, is a welcomed first emotional support. However, many need more professional support to actually improve their emotional wellbeing. A trained value-based counsellor is focused on helping an individual to explore and understand their thoughts and feelings. The counsellor helps the client to work through her or his feelings and challenges in life. Clients become more able to access their strengths and resources as well as to trust themselves to be able to act again, influence their lives and move forward. Referral possibilities are extremely limited since there is a big gap in mental health capacity in Iraq. Ipsos training in VBC contributes to the national mental health strategic objective of capacity building for non-specialized mental health staff and people working in psychosocial care or social protection. Value Based Counsellors can handle complex cases and fill the structural gap of mental health care for people suffering from mental health symptoms as well as supporting them in coping better with their high level of stress and reconnecting to their resources and own potential. Ipso thanks Caritas Germany and BMZ, Caritas Iraq and the Government Duhok Directorate of Health for the opportunity to introduce Value Based Counselling in Iraq for the benefit of many people, whose mental health has been negatively affected by the consequences of war and conflict, and for whom initial support by a lightly trained psychosocial worker appears to be insufficient.