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Red Cross psychologist in Algeria
January saw a British Red Cross psychosocial support team hurry to Algeria to help Britons who had been involved in the four-day siege and hostage crisis. The team, including clinical psychologist Dr Sarah Davidson, travelled to North Africa the day after militants overran a gas plant facility.
Davidson, Deputy Clinical Director on the professional doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of East London, said: 'We went as part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) rapid deployment team, which is responsible for supporting Britons overseas. We were there to provide emotional support and practical help to British nationals caught in the situation, and their relatives.'
Part of the team's role was 'bearing witness'. Davidson said: 'We listened to what the people affected wanted to share and helped them think of ways of understanding their traumatic experiences and how to deal with them. Those who escaped were worried for those they'd left behind and they felt a huge responsibility for getting the best outcome possible. We helped them focus on what they could do, but also to recognise the limitations of what they could do. We also worked with them on looking after themselves, for example trying not to spend lots of time imagining what their friends were going through, and encouraging them to seek support from friends and partners. As they begin to recover it will be important to not constantly retell the story but to plan points to grieve and mark what happened.'
Davidson wrote about her work with the British Red Cross in The Psychologist in April 2010.
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