“Helping those who help” - feedback from trainers

The “Helping those who help” project has conducted many trainings for people in psychological and legal professions working with victims of Russia’s war in Ukraine. We have brought together many dedicated specialists for workshops with a group of trainers from a range of professional backgrounds. 
We have collected valuable feedback on this program from 5 of our expert trainers with lots of useful insights that we would like to share.The feedback we received reinforced the importance of supporting one another and creating forums to share experiences and exchange knowledge. 
Experts exchanging knowledge and experience can greatly help Ukrainian civilians and servicepeople to persevere during wartime. Coming together with other people in aid-related professions helps to boost both resilience and effectiveness in this kind of work. 
Here is the feedback we received from our trainers:
Dr. Joshua Kreimeyer — Ph.D., Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).
Why are events like this important? How do these events help a country during wartime?
The chaos of war is combatted on many fronts. Those on the homefront, prepare with building up resources, including knowledge on how to deal with the transition from war after victory. Training such as this helps build the mental stockpile to prepare the «second frontline» for those returning from war and all those impacted by war. During wartime, people need to have rituals and routines, such as learning new things, not only to prepare but also to divert attention to the things that we are fighting for. If we focus solely on the «what if», the enemy has won the battle.
How might other foreign mental health workers support Ukrainians in this time?
The darkness that has descended upon Ukraine needs light, and light needs energy. Prepare and save up your energy to join shoulder-to-shoulder with the soon-to-come second frontline. Prior to the «go», pray, and give of your resources (i.e. supporting our colleagues with webinars; supporting Ukrainian mental health efforts financially).
What was your overall impression of the event? Any other thoughts you'd like to share?
This event appeared to be timely and well-received. It is good to gather in person, especially during wartime, to remind ourselves of the power of positive connection.
Natalia Pidkalyuk — psychiatrist, Trauma Focus trainer (Institute of Neuropsychotherapy, Austria), head of IPSI NGO.
Why are events like this important? How do events like this help a country during wartime?
“In times of war, we often worry more about others than about ourselves, especially for people in the helping professions. So to help those who are helping is to make their services better. This is something that will be further shared to their clients.
What was your overall impression of the event? Any other thoughts you'd like to share?
“My general impression was that such a long period of life in shocking circumstances has its mark on everyone, so these events unite, help to feel a team spirit, to see how much has actually been done and how important it is not only to provide support, but also to feel this support among colleagues. This was especially noticeable during the live format, where there is space for informal communication at rehearsals, self-care in the form of a day structure, excellent organization of the process.”
Ruslana Rudenko — psychoanalysis-oriented psychologist working with children, adolescents, adults and families.
Why are events like this important? How do events like this help a country during wartime?
These events, in addition to giving people practical experience in using new techniques to stabilize both themselves and the beneficiaries of their services, also provide an opportunity to feel a sense of belonging to a community of professionals and to share their practical experience.
What was your overall impression of the event? Any other thoughts you'd like to share?
“It was inspiring and joyful to conduct a live training, to meet old and new colleagues, and to de-virtualize with the participants of the previous online module.
Immediately everyone got involved in deep fruitful work. Thank you to my colleagues (the trainers) and organizers from Human Rights Vector: you created a space of trust and safety, where it was comfortable and productive to work, right away, even before the meeting in Kyiv.
Special thanks to the participants of the training for their rich and complex experience, for questions, not always easy and convenient, which helped us to look at the theory from the other side, to constantly adapt it to our Ukrainian conditions and especially our present, to pass on our experience, and to receive theirs.
All trainings, online and offline, came alive in a flexible way. Sometimes we saw that it was necessary to deviate from the plan and improvise. It always seemed to me not like a symphony orchestra concert, but like jazz improvisations, where the theme is constant, but the performance depends on the composition of the participants.
We constantly felt the care and attention of the organizers. I have rarely met such high-quality organization of online and offline events, where absolutely all nuances are thought out and taken into account.”
Mark Sherman — head of medical psychology service North District Meuhedet, Israel. Trauma and PTSD Expert. See Far CBT supervisor. Lecturer of Tel Aviv Jaffo Academic College Mifrasim Institute.
These events are important during the war because they form a knowledge base and improve the ability and skills of participants in providing help to those suffering from trauma and post-trauma. They also provide a sense of control, increased sense of self-confidence and a sense of mission and cohesion.
These events help the state to create, in a short time, an infrastructure of therapists who specialize in effective treatment of trauma and post-trauma. A large number of skilled therapists will reduce physical and mental damage to the country's citizens and save future health expenses.
In the two groups I taught, I found lawyers and psychologists who are highly dedicated and motivated to succeed and help their country in any way. The desire to learn and become a professional and pass the knowledge on impressed me a lot. All participants came with an open mind and a loving heart dedicated to a common goal as patriots. The organizers of the seminar were professional and allowed me to teach properly.
In order to enable a high level of professionalism and reduce burnout and secondary trauma the professionals must be accompanied by supervision at least once in 2 weeks and meet the requirements of the certification so that citizens, soldiers, officers, policemen know that they are in the most professional hands available. They also have to take further training every quarter.”
Iryna Ratzke-Rybak — psychoanalyst, group analysis trainer, family therapist, supervisor.
“There is a significant demand (about 625 applications from psychological and legal aid workers, as of August 2023) for this kind of training, for psychological education and effective methods and techniques to help in the work of people in aid-related professions. It is very important to create a space for the community to learn from experienced coaches, teachers, and each other. The acquired experience of our Ukrainian colleagues working during the war requires understanding and collaborative efforts to implement it systematically.
Regarding the offline trainings, there is a big need for close communication with like-minded people and colleagues. This not only makes it possible to accelerate the acquisition and assimilation of professional skills and abilities, but also to activate the natural qualities of recovery. All this happens during online trainings as well, but direct meetings with colleagues have a higher intensity.
Online training is also an extremely important form of work because it allows you to provide assistance to those who are in remote areas and cannot receive it all the time. In addition to direct work in the areas of psychology, there is also an opportunity to see the geography of Ukrainian specialists in the country and the world. This serves as support and inspiration for Ukrainians all over the world.
In general, there is a high demand for education and growth from psychological and legal aid workers, even during such extremely difficult conditions. And there will be even more so in the future.
The trauma of war will not escape any of its participants. The work being done to prevent it is already showing beneficial effects and will need further growth.”
More about our trainers:
Dr. Joshua Kreimeyer(USA), Ph.D, is a Board Certified Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and a Supervisor approved by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
Dr. Kreimeyer graduated from Minnesota State University with a bachelor's degree in recreation. From there he joined the US Army as a linguist-cryptologist. He and his family served in California, Texas and Germany. He took part in combat operations in Kosovo (1999) and Iraq (2003). After an injury that made reenlistment impossible, he transitioned to civilian life and took advantage of a vocational rehabilitation program to retrain as a clinical mental health counselor. He also received a Post Graduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy and now practices in the US as a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Supervisor. He has worked in community outpatient clinics, private practice, the drug and alcohol hospital program of the US Bureau of Prisons, and for several years as an adjustment counselor and family therapist for the US Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Kreimeyer has taught family therapy since 2016, first as a faculty member at Regis University as coordinator of their Military Family Counseling Graduate Certificate Program, and most recently (January 2023) as an Associate Professor of Clinical mental health counseling at Colorado Christian University. Dr. Kreimeyer received his PhD in Counselor Training and Supervision from Regent University.
Dr. Kreimeier is committed to helping service members and their families navigate the transition from war and military to civilian life, as well as to mitigate the effects of trauma. While studying at Regent University, Dr. Kreimeyer participated in pioneering approaches to provide trauma-informed psychological counseling in Ukraine. He was part of the team that helped establish the International Institute of Postgraduate Education in Kyiv, Ukraine (americanprogram.net/) and its associated community service clinic (odukraine.com/). Since 2019, Dr. Kreimeyer has also conducted numerous trainings for Ukrainian psychologists, as well as facilitated retreats for Ukrainian military families through the International Office of the International Organization for Migration.
Natalia Pidkalyukis a psychiatrist, Trauma Focus trainer (Institute of Neuropsychotherapy, Austria), and the head of IPSI NGO. She participates in educational projects on group psychoanalysis (APPU), clinical hypnosis (APPU), reconsolidation of traumatic memories (randrproject), and crisis leadership programs (Center for Humanitarian leadership).
Natalia has 20 years of professional experience, 12 of which she worked in a psychiatric hospital in various departments (acute conditions, neuroses, gerontology, she headed the department of coercive medical measures with enhanced supervision). In 2017, a center for medical and psychological rehabilitation of stress disorders was created as part of the polyclinic together with the local authorities. Since December 2021, she has been conducting private practice and is the head of an NGO: IPSI.
Since the beginning of the full-scale war, IPSI has provided psychosocial support services to people affected by the war, with individual consultations and group classes. In total, supporting more than 10,000 people. This work is done both on the grounds of the Center and in the Khmelnytskyi region. It also conducts trainings for people in aid professions on the prevention of professional burnout, and organizes educational events for psychologists.
Ruslana Rudenkois a psychoanalysis-oriented psychologist working with children, adolescents, adults and families. She has additional specialization in trauma work and Jungian Sand Play therapy. Supervisor, teaching analyst at Odesa Psychoanalytic Society (OPS). Teacher at the Odesa Psychoanalytic Institute of Postgraduate Education.
Ruslana holds lectures for parents and OPS students on attachment theory, child psychology, play psychotherapy and child psychoanalysis, as well as non-analytic methods of trauma therapy. She participates in the organization of seminars and conferences of the OPS.
Social activities: organization of social projects for overcoming trauma and preventing psychological burnout for volunteers, servicemen, IDPs and social workers; psychological support for military personnel and their family members.
Mark Sherman(Israel) is the head of medical psychology service north district Meuhedet. He is a trauma and PTSD expert, See Far CBT supervisor, lecturer of Tel Aviv Jaffo Academic College Mifrasim Institute, and has worked privately for the last 15 years with soldiers, police officers, and civilians. He has worked and supervised in Ukraine from 2011 to the present.
Iryna Ratzke-Rybak(Ukraine-Germany) is a psychoanalyst, group analysis trainer, family therapist, and supervisor.
Iryna is the Head of the Department of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy for Couples and Families, a supervisor and training analyst at the Association of Psychologists and Psychotherapists of Ukraine (APPU), a delegate of the European Federation of Psychoanalysts and Psychotherapists (EFPP), a full member of the Group Analytic Society International (GASI). She has more than 20 years of experience as a therapist and training analyst in individual and group therapy. An important aspect of her work is the training of specialists and supervision of other supervisors. She has international training in trauma work (Israel).
Iryna provides group psychological and psychosocial support to women and children who are forced migrants from Ukraine in Germany at EBW (Evangelical Academy).

For reference: The project «Helping those who help» is implemented by the NGO Human Rights Vector with financial support from the European Union, within the framework of the Stiykist Program. The Stiykist Program is a 30-month project funded by the European Union and implemented by ERIM in partnership with the Black Sea Trust, the Eastern Europe Foundation, the Human Rights Houses Foundation and the Human Rights House in Tbilisi. The project is aimed at strengthening the resilience and effectiveness of war-affected CSOs and civil society workers affected by the war in Ukraine, including independent media and human rights defenders.

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