Political discourse helps psychosocial work

Carolina Torres is the director of Colectivo Psicosocial Colombiano, Copsico. For the last fourteen years she has worked alongside social organisations in Colombia.

PBI: What are the most transcendental consequences of the armed conflict on communities and social or human rights organisations in psychosocial terms?

CAROLINE: We need to understand that the size of the damage in Colombia is very complex.  When we speak of the impact we must understand that we have never known Colombia at peace, or with a different kind of social fabric. Political violence directly affects trust and confidence.  In our experience as experts to the Court in collective cases, we have shown evidence of the cultural transformations which go against us developing roots, against the issue of land, identity, culture, and which have even ruptured the generational process.

There is a transformation in how communities are constructing their identity.  Fear is absolutely present, trust is broken, as is the possibility of building something together.  The distrust is so strong, so influential and so generalised that I not only don’t trust the people who attacked me, but I also start to generalise this lack of trust with everybody: with my neighbour, with someone from the community and even with myself.

PBI: What techniques have you developed around accompanying organisations and communities and how have they contributed to their psychosocial recovery?

Carolina: At Copsico we’ve transformed our methodologies.  We feel that a strong political message helps our work. If you speak about issues of vindicating rights, it’s but a few short steps to having a psychosocial perspective; and that is where we believe that trust becomes an important notion, and that is the basis of our work.

There are different methodologies: we do a lot of work around theatre, the body, art, sculpture, drawing and painting to express ourselves, because that is a very important part of accompanying people.  When I am able to grasp what happened to me in its entirety, verbally or by singing, we can understand what happened and this is very important in the psychosocial accompaniment process and emotional recovery.

PBI: What is needed for psychosocial recovery in the current context?

Carolina:  There are needs in all areas: with organisations and communities it is very important to generate mechanisms for self-care.  Peace is being talked about, but criminalisation continues.  Also, we try to see how to move ahead with actions that care for and protect the community.

A large part of our work is to educate society.  If everyone in this country could feel what has happened in Colombia, it would never happen again.  We need to learn about non-repetition, and have a didactic process not just in terms of peace, but also to teach the history of the armed conflict too.

PBI: What is the importance of psychosocially accompanying the victims of the armed conflict in terms of integral reparation and building or strengthening civil society?

Carolina:  Without the existence of psychosocial accompaniment processes we would not be able to speak of organisational strengthening.  Psychosocial processes are the catalysts for other things to move forward.  Once I can recognise myself in the pain, when I can understand that I don’t need to mistrust the other, that I have a specific proposal to put to the other that enables us to forge a path together, these are all within the bounds of the psychosocial.  All organisations should have a psychosocial perspective because it is obvious that we feel fear.  It is very important for strengthening organisations, building identity and healthy relationships, for creating spaces where we can be constructive.

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