Therapists Supporting Ukrainians in Times of War

As Ukraine continues to battle against the war with Russia, therapists in the country are providing much-needed support to those affected by grief, guilt, anger, fear, isolation, and feelings of powerlessness. Inna Pochtaruk, a therapist in Ukraine, emphasizes the importance of expressing anger as a healthy reaction that can provide energy for action and help protect personal boundaries. However, therapists like Pochtaruk also face their own challenges and require support. To address this, a group of therapists in Ukraine meets every fortnight over Zoom to receive free clinical supervision from therapists based in London, with the assistance of a Ukrainian translator. These meetings provide mutual support and guidance, ensuring that therapists can continue to help their patients effectively.

The therapists emphasize the prolonged threat of death as one of the most challenging aspects of living in a war-torn country. Svetlana Koval, another therapist who was forced to relocate due to the war, expresses her feelings of hopelessness following each conversation with her elderly mother who remained behind. Despite these difficulties, the therapists find ways to cope. For example, Koval has found solace in ballroom dancing, although the community is limited due to the large number of men who have been conscripted into the army.

The therapists stress the importance of finding joy in small things, such as practicing yoga, gardening, and enjoying cups of tea. They acknowledge that joy has become taboo during the war, as many Ukrainians believe they should suffer in solidarity with others. The war has also led to a rise in anti-Russian sentiment, leading to the breakdown of relationships between Ukrainians and Russians. While some therapists choose to sever ties with Russian colleagues due to their anger, others argue that the focus should be directed towards President Vladimir Putin and his invading army.

The therapists acknowledge that their own mental health is also at risk, as they experience similar traumas to their clients. They face disruptions during online therapy sessions due to shelling, explosions, and blackouts. However, they remain determined to offer a safe space for clients to work through their emotions and experiences.

Despite the challenges they face, the therapists remain hopeful and express their commitment to supporting their clients. They believe that knowledge is their weapon, and they are determined to win the war against mental health challenges in Ukraine. However, they acknowledge that the psychological toll of the war may last for generations.

Financial concerns are also a burden for the therapists, as they previously provided free services after the war had robbed them of their livelihoods. Some therapists have managed to secure paid work, while others have set up private practices that offer free services to those in need. They recognize the importance of reaching more individuals in need and maintaining their own well-being to avoid emotional burnout.

Overall, the work of therapists in Ukraine is vital in providing support and guidance to individuals affected by the war. By offering a safe space for expression and helping clients work through their emotions, therapists contribute to the well-being of Ukrainians during this challenging time.