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Shannon Dorsey is featured in this UW News article about the training of lay counselors for treatment of trauma

Community-based counselors help mitigate grief, stress among children orphaned in East Africa

A first-of-its-kind clinical trial involving more than 600 children in Kenya and Tanzania, in which community members were trained to deliver mental health treatment, showed improvement in participants’ trauma-related symptoms up to a year after receiving therapy, new research shows.

Led by the University of Washington and Duke University, researchers trained laypeople as counselors to deliver treatment in both urban and rural communities in Kenya and Tanzania, and evaluated the progress of children and their guardians through sessions of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.

The study is published online Jan. 22 in JAMA Psychiatry.

An estimated 140 million children around the world have experienced the death of a parent, which can result in grief, depression, anxiety and other physical and mental health conditions.

In low and middle-income countries, many of those children end up living with relatives or other caregivers where mental health services are typically unavailable.

“Very few people with mental health needs receive treatment in most places in the world, including many communities in the U.S.,” said lead author Shannon Dorsey, a UW professor of psychology. “Training community members, or ‘lay counselors’ to deliver treatment helps increase the availability of services.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy, generally involves focusing on thoughts and behavior, and how changing either or both can lead to feeling better. When CBT is used for traumatic events, it involves talking about the events and related difficult situations instead of trying to avoid thinking about or remembering them. The approach has been tested before among children, and in areas with little access to mental health services, Dorsey said, but this study is the first clinical trial outside high-income countries to examine sustained improvement in post-traumatic stress symptoms in children over time.

Read the entire article here.