Commentary: A social environment approach to promotive and protective practice in childhood resilience – reflections on Ungar (2014)

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The field of mental health and psychosocial support for children in humanitarian emergencies has been evolving rapidly. A decade ago, researchers and practitioners frequently took a deficits approach that emphasized problems such as trauma, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in zones of armed conflict. Assessments focused on PTSD and typically led to the provision of curative responses such as Western psychotherapies as the first response for the affected population. Practitioners expressed diverse concerns about this approach, including its narrow, medicalized definition of the problem (mental disorder), the unsustainability of the programs it generated, the relative inattention to the context, the privileging of individual over systemic approaches, and the lack of cultural sensitivity. For these and other reasons, humanitarian practitioners have increasingly favored a resilience approach that features the agency of children, families, and communities and seeks to build upon existing assets or strengths. Already there is evidence of the effectiveness of numerous interventions that embody a resilience approach. Yet resilience approaches have been limited by a lack of conceptual clarity and ongoing questions about how to assess and measure it. In this context, Michael Ungar's Practitioner Review is an important contribution to practice.

Read the full article at doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12306

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