Greetings from Gulu, Uganda!

My name is Gabriele and I work as a psychotherapist in Uganda. I’m just starting my fourth year with CVT. My job is to train Ugandan counselors so they can help torture and war trauma survivors feel more powerful and able to change their lives. The survivors live scattered in the rural areas far from the place where I live.

Many years of war between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) left terrible wounds in Northern Uganda. A number of organizations provide economic, medical and basic needs assistance. But very few offer psychological healing services and very few have resources to do it in an effective way.

For the past three years, I’ve been training a small group of counselors from different organizations. This year there will be 16 trainees from six partner nongovernmental organizations. Working with the local organizations, I have had individual sessions with 360 survivors of torture and war and more than 500 survivors if I count group sessions.

Gabriele Marini

A native of Italy, Gabriele Marini is working as a psychotherapist and trainer in Uganda.

"...what is most rewarding is making a  difference and seeing projects go quickly from an idea to existence in the world. The counselors are growing and learning, survivors are improving and our work is having a big impact on people..."

Still, after all these years, I can’t stop the enthusiasm I feel when I acknowledge the amazing impact of counseling on clients. In my life, I’ve worked with clients from a multitude of African countries, as well as clients from Asia, Latin America and Europe. I believe that counseling is definitely a cross-cultural healing intervention.

I see that when people are allowed to spend time to focus on what they feel, think, or secretly wish, change is happening. The change is showing in a client’s voice, posture, gaze and energy. Often, it’s like watching a dried up plant that finally reaches water.

Since the beginning, seeing clients means traveling at least one hour – or up to two or even more. Every time I go to the field or outside of town I’m accompanied by a driver. It makes me feel more secure and it helps me save energy for the clients and my clinical duty.

When I work in the field, I’ll spend all day outside town. I leave early in the morning and join the trainees from the organization of the day, and together we go the villages – maybe an hour or two away from my home in Gulu – and see a certain number of clients and after supervision of the trainees, I start my journey back home. There I’ll work in the office into the evening time.

My house and office are in Gulu, about 120 kilometers south from the border with Sudan. I like to stay in Gulu, though it is a small city. It’s clean and the weather is nice. It’s never too cold or too hot or dusty. Another reason is that the people here are warm, proud, and have a sense of humor. Sometimes electricity may be unobtainable and there’s no cinema or theater or many things, but most of the time I’m very busy with work and really don’t feel the need to go around town.

Another important part of my work is to hold trainings. On those days, I reach the venue of a training session for counselors. Then I make sure everything is set. The training is 8:00 to 5:00. When I finish the training, I might go back home and do administrative work – finances, writing and reading emails, reviewing the pre-and post-tests of the training – and continue working into the evening.

I can say that before we started working in Uganda, the counselors and organizations didn’t know about the power or efficacy of counseling. Most of the counselors had received minimal training and hadn’t experienced how talking can help people to change their lives. They thought people needed to receive the “right” advice about what to do plus an object in their hands. So psychosocial organizations used to mix advice with material services. They were surprised and amazed when they saw how powerful talking can be. We’ve demonstrated that this kind of approach is effective for people who have survived war and torture.

I’m glad about the work I’m doing here. My work gives me opportunity to use creativity and a wide range of skills. But what is most rewarding is making a difference and seeing projects go quickly from an idea to existence in the world. The counselors are growing and learning, survivors are improving and our work is having a big impact on people, and me… I’m learning everyday something new. 
With warm regards,

Gabriele Marini
Psychotherapist and Trainer
Gulu, Uganda


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