Training and Supporting Ukrainian Psychotherapists to Care for Victims of War and Terror

The ESTSS4UKRAINE task force is developing courses and providing supervisions for mental health workers in Ukraine to help them relieve the psychological consequences of the Russian invasion. The need is high and will be so for a long time. ESTSS is determined to keep up facilitating these activities, but to do so we need additional funding.

You can make a donation here.

Need for support

Since 2014 a war is going on in Ukraine. In February 2022 this escalated into a full-scale invasion by Russia whereby attacks on civilian targets were part of their tactics.  For Ukraine this means that numerous people throughout the country were and are confronted with violence, death and destruction. This holds true for both soldiers and civilians, in fact no one in Ukraine is safe.
Of course, this results in a large number of people running the risk of being affected by psychotrauma and other mental disturbances that accompany these circumstances. On a scale that could disrupt the functioning of the whole country and has a long-term effect on the mental health of the population as a whole.
It is very difficult for therapists and other mental health workers to support victims under these circumstances. A lot of them had to flee or have been victims of the violence themselves, and moreover the normal mental health structures are severely disrupted.

Training and intervision

ESTSS deeply feels the need to support the people of Ukraine and for this an initiative started to help the Ukrainian Psychotrauma Society (USOCTE) to educate Ukrainian mental health workers in diagnosing and treating psychotrauma related disturbances, and to support those therapists who are still working in Ukraine.

To start with the latter, ESTSS created internet groups in which Ukrainian mental health workers can virtually meet and discuss problems and questions they have. These groups are aimed at providing support by giving an opportunity to share experiences and discuss problems with each other. An experienced psychotrauma therapist from ESTSS supervises these meetings. We selected this procedure to add expertise to the groups, and to add the possibility of scientific and clinical reflection.
At the moment there are three groups. You can read about the personal experience of a group member here. As the war is not over yet, the need is high to continue with these groups and possibly expand the number. Fortunately, we had a lot of experienced professionals from Europe volunteering to lead the groups.

Concerning training and education, a few years ago, the Ukrainian Society for Psychotrauma (USOCTE) asked ESTSS for support in educating therapists on the treatment of psychotrauma in Ukraine. A number of ESTSS members volunteered to develop these courses.
Accessibility, flexibility in time and easy distribution were considered at the essence of course development, given the geographical scale of Ukraine and the current state of crisis. This means: developing a series of lectures on core issues in the treatment of psychotrauma-related disturbances that could easily be repeated and made available to many therapists and related mental health professionals.

We chose to develop courses that are recorded and may be attended online, combined with sessions in which students can discuss questions they have (Q and A sessions) with a specialist on the subject.
The lectures are in English and subtitled in Ukrainian, and the Q and A sessions are translated with the help of an interpreter. At this moment we have completed the following courses: a broad introduction into traumatic stress studies, psychodiagnostics, assessment of war related mental health symptoms, and techniques for emotional stabilization and activation. Courses on Narrative Exposure Therapy, Trauma Focused CBT, Ethics and Self-care, and Burn-out Prevention are under construction and there will be an EMDR training by the end of March.

We feel humbled and fortunate with the ease in finding competent specialists to help us developing the courses and conducting the supervisions. The willingness of our ESTSS community to help our initiative is beyond what we hoped for and we cannot state enough how grateful we are for that.

Financial needs

The challenges we face are primarily of another nature.
First of all, the language barrier is a big problem. Our specialists are English-speaking, and most Ukrainians are not or are very limited. Especially when there is an interaction between people, as in the Q and A and supervision sessions, we need skilled simultaneous translators who understand the psychological issues and are able to interpret them directly.
Secondly, we need an adequate infrastructure to keep students informed, to register who is taking part, and to make and keep the courses available on the internet, etc.
Although ESTSS was and is very helpful in supporting this project from the beginning, we need to ensure additional funding to keep all the activities going. Especially for the supervision groups, continuity is vital.




The Netherlands

IBAN: NL21ABNA0538317590

Payment description: ESTSS4Ukraine


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The Ukraine certification task force that is developing the program consists of:

Ukraine USOCTE:     Tetania Nazarenko, Natalia Nalyvaiko
ESTSS:                       Jana Javakhishvili, Kristina Bondjers Zoran Sukovic,
NtVP:                          Rolf Kleber, Trudy Mooren, Ton de Wijs (chair)