Collective Trauma, Collective Healing
Promoting Community Resilience in the Aftermath of Disaster
By Jack Saul
Routledge – 2014 – 198 pages
Collective Trauma, Collective Healing is a guide for mental health professionals working in response to large-scale political violence or natural disaster. It provides a framework that practitioners can use to develop their own community based, collective approach to treating trauma and providing clinical services that are both culturally and contextually appropriate. Clinicians will come away from the book with a solid understanding of new roles that health and mental health professionals play in disasters—roles that encourage them to recognize and enhance the resilience and coping skills in families, organizations, and the community at large.
The book draws on experience working with survivors, their families, and communities in the Holocaust, postwar Kosovo, the Liberian civil wars, and post-9/11 lower Manhattan. It tracks the development of community programs and projects based on a family and community resilience approach, including those that enhance the collective capacities for narration and public conversation.
"Jack Saul shows professionals how to build community programs that employ primordial human tactics to forge increased community resilience. This book has that rare ability to produce a paradigm shift in how we heal traumatized communities. It’s original and intellectually exciting. I bet it becomes a classic."
—Helen Fisher, PhD, research professor in the department of anthropology at Rutgers University
"Collective Trauma, Collective Healing is essential reading for all clinical and community-based professionals working with survivors of mass trauma. In contrast to the individualistic, symptom-focused approach of most mental health services, this practice framework addresses the widespread impact of major disasters in families and communities and taps their strengths and resources for recovery and resilience. In this valuable guide, Dr. Saul, an internationally recognized leader at the forefront of the field, draws on his extensive experience and creative initiatives to inform and inspire our response to trauma and tragedy by bringing out the best in families and their communities."
—Froma Walsh, PhD, codirector at the Chicago Center for Family Health, Firestone Professor Emerita at the University of Chicago and author of Strengthening Family Resilience
"This book is a wonderful collection of essays about the ways individuals and communities around the world, from Kosovo to Liberia, and from Tibet, and Chile, to Turkey and to New York after September 11, recover from collective trauma. It is filled with practical suggestions for how narratives, theater, and public performances can promote resilience and recovery in people and communities that have been devastated by wars, natural disasters, and interpersonal violence. It presents a solution-focused approach that emphasizes the individual’s or family’s strengths rather than their problems or pathology. It is a refreshing break from overly concrete prescriptions that ignore cultural and individual differences, and that tend neglect the healing power of community and collective action."
—Bessel van der Kolk, MD, professor of psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine and medical director of the Trauma Center
"Jack Saul invites us to join him in his exploration of territories of torture, helplessness and destruction— a dark continent of inhumanity—and to experience with him the healing capacity of communities. Looking at scenarios as diverse as Kosovo, lower Manhattan on September 11, and the Liberian refugees on Staten Island, he describes how a group of systems thinkers, armed with an extraordinary trust in the power of social connections, joins in partnership with communities in search of justice, reconciliation, and resilience. Written with attention to the small details of survival, an understanding of the power of cultures in history, and the healing capacity of art and theater, Saul shows us the effort and endurance necessary to reconstruct life and restore sanity in societies that have experienced chaos. It is a powerful testimony."
—Salvador Minuchin, MD, founder of the Minuchin Family Center and author of Families and Family Therapy
"Jack Saul’s book is terrific and truly compelling for professionals who work with traumatized people. With first-hand stories, he artfully describes a range of out-of-office interventions to help families, neighborhoods, and communities in the aftermath of disaster. Dr. Saul is never better than when he writes about using the arts to understand the complexities of human trauma and resilience. Yes, even improvisation!"
—Pauline Boss, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, and author of Ambiguous Loss and Loss, Trauma, and Resilience
"With compassion and insight, Jack Saul shares his own journey through the aftermath of September 11th as witness, participant, and healer, chronicling the power of collective narrative to transform traumatic experience into communal recovery."
—Alice Greenwald, director, National September 11 Memorial & Museum
"In Collective Trauma, Collective Healing Jack Saul takes us through a masterful journey of his healing work addressing the ongoing tragedy of social and political traumas around the world. His work is creative, rich, sensitive, and deeply felt. His writing gives rare glimpses into how science and wisdom must be coalesced to treat the wounds of torture, loss, and devastation. Psychological science, art, and anthropology are so thoughtfully integrated in his work and writing to provide both a history of his intervention work and a guidebook for those brave enough to treat the collective wounds that both nature and humans too often cause. With this volume, Dr. Saul contributes meaningfully to repairing our world."
—Stevan E. Hobfoll, PhD, the Judd and Marjorie Weinberg Presidential Professor and chair of the department of behavioral sciences atRush University Medical Center
"Jack Saul’s clear and compelling narrative, based on his immersion in several catastrophes, offers practical knowledge on community resilience strategies for responding to collective trauma that will be highly informative for practitioners across many disciplines."
—Stevan Weine, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of Testimony After Catastrophe
"In Collective Trauma, Collective Healing, Dr. Saul provides a detailed documentation of what it takes to recognize, develop, and sustain a community environment that promotes healing from mass disaster. Throughout the multiple examples in the book, including personal challenges to his own community in the wake of September 11, the author emphasizes the importance of going beyond individual approaches to mount a public health response after any disaster. Dr. Saul has a deep respect for systems and how they work, while never denying the inevitable tensions that occur and the competing agendas that can easily sabotage recovery efforts. As man-made and natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity, few of us are prepared by our professional training, to know what to do when faced with the kind of social challenge that Dr. Saul describes. This book, with all the lessons learned, becomes a must-read book for public and private managers."
—Sandra L. Bloom, MD, co-director of the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice at the Drexel University School of Public Health
"Jack Saul is a dedicated healer whose deep understanding of systems therapy has taken him to the aid of injured communities around the globe. Yet it was September 11 that literally brought these lessons home, making him an insider to catastrophe. This blend of outsider knowledge and insider wisdom makes this the book on collective recovery. It will transform our practice."
—Mindy Thompson Fullilove, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry and socio-medical sciences, New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University
"Most books simply espouse principles or ideal goals, telling us what to aim for, but not how to get there, and almost never do they walk us through the messy process of working in the wake of conflict. Saul’s book not only breaks critically important fresh ground in setting out the critical role that collective resilience plays in allowing individuals and communities to transform themselves after traumatic events. He also takes us with him on the journeys he travelled to make the discoveries he can now share. The various stories in his book convey the critical message that we cannot know the answer before we begin, at the same time as providing us with a toolkit of indispensible principles and resources for action."
—Danielle Celermajer, PhD, associate professor and director of the Torture Prevention Project at the University of Sydney
"Jack Saul's compelling book is a major achievement in the literature on trauma and recovery, nudging the discourse from the individual to the community. This must-read for mental health professionals and creative arts therapists blends psychotherapy and expressive therapy, reflection and action, featuring communities of dialogue front and center, capable of re-building destroyed edifices of the city and the soul.
—Robert Landy, PhD, professor and director of the drama therapy program at New York University
"Jack Saul brings to this book years of outstanding contribution and experience addressing the psychological needs of those exposed to many different types of disaster. As governments at all levels seek better ways to make communities resilient, this book offers much needed practical guidance for policy and practice. It is a unique contribution to an emerging field that is understanding that early intervention is always better, but that it's never too late to offer help in culturally appropriate ways."
—Michael Ungar, PhD, professor of social work at Dalhousie University and co-director of the Resilience Research Centre
Introduction: Collective Trauma, Resilience and Recovery Part I: Collective Trauma and Recovery: Global Perspectives 1. Families and Generations 2. Refugees in New York City: From Clinic to Community 3. Promoting Family and Community Resilience in Post War Kosovo Part II: From Global to Local: Urban Terrorism in Lower Manhattan 4. 9/11: The First Three Weeks 5. School and Community: Forging Collaboration 6. Promoting Collective Recovery 7. Community Initiated Recovery Activities 8. Collective Narration and Performance Part III: War and Migration – Little Liberia, Staten Island, NY 9. Little Liberia: Fostering Community Resilience 10. Seeking Truth and Justice.
Jack Saul, PhD, is assistant professor of clinical population and family health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and director of the International Trauma Studies Program. As a psychologist he has created a number of programs for populations in New York City that have endured war, torture, and political violence, including the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, REFUGE (Refugee Resource Center), Theater Arts Against Political Violence, the Post-9/11 Downtown Community Resource Center, and African Refuge. He consults with organizations on staff welfare in response to trauma-related work and has a private practice in Manhattan.