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Family reunification in exile - a challenge for family therapists

Nora Sveaass

Families are often separated by war, conflict and forced migration. Many families have lived through years of uncertainty and suffering, and sometimes also experienced long bureaucratic processes before they are finally reunited in a new society. In addition many family members have been exposed to traumatic events prior to reunification, such as imprisonment, torture and war. The reunification in itself also presents the family with new challenges. Whereas one part of the family has lived in the new country for some time, the newly arrived family member(s) meets the host country for the first time. Finding the way back into family life in a new and complex context, may represent a combination of great joy, relief and difficult stress. Families with these experiences have been interviewed as part of a project on intervention with reunited families.

Recorded: October 2009, Dubrovnik - Cavtat, Croatia.
Coping & Resilience International Conference

Organiser: The Brisbane Institute of Strengths Based Practice

Nora Sveaass
Nora Sveaass
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Nora Sveaass

Head of Section and Senior Researcher, Section for Refugee Health and Forced Migration at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, Oslo, Norway

Senior psychologist at the Psychosocial Centre for Refugees at the University of Oslo.  Engaged in training and supervising health personnel, research and psychotherapy with refugees exposed to torture and other severe trauma.
Lecturer at universities and centres in other countries on issues related to psychology, refugees and gross human rights violations.  Presentations at a number of international conferences.
Lecturer in psychology at the Staff Educational Centre at the Norwegian Correctional Service.
Membership and advisory functions in various expert committees, including doctoral committees at Nordic universities.
Educational background:
Dr. psychol. (Doctor of Psychology), University of Oslo, 2001
Specialist in clinical psychology, 1989
Cand. psychol. (Norwegian university degree in psychology), University of Oslo, 1975
Other main activities in the field relevant to the mandate of the treaty body concerned:
Studies of trauma exposure and mental health in asylum-seekers in Norway
Studies of refugees and family reunification in exile - developing a model for intervention
Norwegian coordinator of cooperation project between the University of Oslo and the University of Central America, Managua, Nicaragua - Consequences of forced migration and organised violence in Central America
Family therapy with refugee families at the Psychosocial Centre for Refugees, University of Oslo, Norway
Norwegian editor of Nordisk Psykologi (Nordic Psychology)
Supervisor to research projects regarding severe trauma, health and psychosocial work
Initiator and head of project Health and Human Rights Info - a web-based information project/guidelines and information for people and communities exposed to severe human rights violations
Secretary General of the International Society for Health and Human Rights, 1998-2005.  From 2005, member of council
Member of the Advisory Board for The Psychological Journal published by Norwegian Psychological Association
Head of Human Rights Committee, Norwegian Psychological Association

List of most recent publications in the field:

Restructuring meaning after uprooting and violence/Psychosocial interventions in refugee receiving and in post-conflict societies - Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo (2000, 2nd ed. 2001) (doctoral thesis).
Family, activity and postraumatic reactions in exile (Lie, Sveaass, Eilertsen) - Community, Work & Family (UK) (2004).
Reconstructruyendo vidas en el exilio:  el trabajo psicosocial con refugiados - Psicología y derechos humanos, Barcelona (2004).
Engaging refugee families in therapy:  Exploring the benefits of including referring professional in the first family interviews - Family Process (USA) (2001).
Refugee families in therapy:  From referrals to therapeutic conversations - Journal of Family Therapy (UK) (2001).
Psychological aspects of human rights violation:  The importance of justice and reconciliation - Scandinavian Journal of International Law (2000).
Psychological work in a postwar context - experiences from Nicaragua - Community, Work and Family (UK) (2000).
Political Psychology - Oslo (will be published in 2005 in Norwegian).
Pain and Survival.  Human Rights Violations and Mental Health (Lavik, Sveaass, Nygard, Fannemel) - Scandinavian University Press (1994).

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