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Vol. 4 (2023): Panoply Journal

The Evolution of Therapists: Transitioning to Combat Supporters – Treating Victims of Terrorism

2 November 2023



This article was written during the harrowing and relentless turmoil of the 'Iron Swords' war that engulfed the nation of Israel. This article aims to discuss ways of treating victims of terrorism: witnesses, wounded, and bereaved. This includes injured non-uniform-wearing soldiers, soldiers exposed to terror in direct combat against the enemy, special units of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), ZAKA (Disaster Victim Identification Organization) personnel, and the Forensic Identification Department personnel dealing with the alarming consequences of terrorism. The existence of various affected populations, as mentioned above, necessitates professionals—psychologists, social workers, as well as parents and families in constant contact with the victims who are exposed to complex content — and therefore acknowledge and specialize in multiple roles that are not conventional for them. For instance, when therapists are required to support and provide therapeutic care for soldiers in the midst of combat.

This article will address the stages of intervention for victims of terrorism, emphasizing the attempt to provide tangible tools for therapists and professional personnel in immediate contact with victims, civilians, and soldiers in combat or war zones. The focus will be on those accompanying victims in the initial stages and, subsequently, post-exposure to a terrorist event. Additionally, there will be consideration for civilian and combat witnesses, officials, wounded, and individuals who experienced loss and bereavement. The individuals mentioned above, civilians, soldiers, ZAKA personnel, etc., in this article will be referred to as witnesses and combatants due to their involvement in risky situations and combat.

Key issues to be discussed in the article will include witnessing terror event(s) and the shared traumatic reality for therapists and patients, the complexities of post-trauma adaptation in therapy, specific demands on professionals treating combatants and civilians under terrorist attack, and the appropriate timing for their treatment. Furthermore, the discussion will include how combatants and civilians respond within the treatment space, as well as addressing recovery time during active combat.

The author extends sincere gratitude to Dr. Hilla Lee Delorme for her invaluable assistance in translating this manuscript from its original Hebrew version.

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