An attitude of helplessness: basic counselling in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Abstract

The Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered armed conflict for over 20 years, with the eastern provinces being particularly impacted by destruction and structural violence. The consequences of this ongoing violence are visible on the streets and in the homes of the people, as well as specifically affecting the minds of the country's youth. This personal reflection highlights the work of a psychologist at a vocational training centre in Bukavu. The most often heard complaints among the students at that centre are the lack of basic needs, the struggle to survive, extreme stress, and loss of hope and control. Cultural aspects and the impact of structural violence are discussed as explanations for existing attitudes of helplessness. Resilience enhancing interventions are described as programmes that have shown promise for students in Bukavu, in order to regain control over their daily lives and hope for the future.

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