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Tyranny and trauma: self-psychology and the experience of Burmese refugees in Australia

Dr Raymond Tint Way

The impact of a totalitarian regime on a population has not been extensively explored from the perspective of self-psychological theories, in the psychiatric literature. Earlier, self-psychology was criticised for lacking the necessary understanding of trauma and for being a mere supplement to psychoanalysis. Kohut claimed that psychoanalysis and self-psychology could complement each other, that 'selfobject loss or absence' explained the psychology of traumatisation, and that 'empathic attunement' could be used as a tool to repair the traumatised self. Recent history has seen the rise of many oppressive regimes, which, when compounded by globalisation, have generated large numbers of refugees and
displaced persons in search of safe havens.

24-28 August 2011 Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre
Darling Harbour, Australia.
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Dr Raymond Tint Way

Dr Raymond Tint Way is a consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist in private practice. He is also a VMO psychiatrist in the Mood Disorders Unit at Northside Clinic, a private psychiatric in-patient facility at Greenwich, New South Wales. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. He is a graduate of the Rangoon Institute of Medicine (I) in Burma. He migrated to Australia in 1978 and trained in psychiatry in Sydney. His Master’s thesis in psychotherapy at the University of Sydney was concerned with the transcultural management of trauma by means of Kohutian Self-Psychology, as applied to a Burmese case study, which was later published in the Self in Conversation, Vol. II (ANZAP Journal).  He has been involved in the assessment and treatment of Burmese refugees and has collaborated with the Transcultural Mental Health Centre in NSW. He has led the effort to train Burmese-speaking general practitioners and other health workers to carry out a psychosocial project in Burma in response to a natural disaster (Cyclone Nargis in May 2008).Dr Tint Way has a special interest in the area of social psychiatry, including cross-cultural issues of migrants and refugees. One of his earlier publications was entitled, ‘Burmese Culture, Personality and Mental Health (published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry in 1985). He has published in the areas of psychopharmacology, cross-cultural psychiatry, and self-psychology.

Following Cyclone Nargis in Burma (2008), he trained a group of Burmese-speaking general practitioners and health workers (the “Train the Trainer” model), who then carried out a pilot psychosocial project among cyclone survivors in Burma. He presented papers on Cyclone Nargis and Psychological First Aid at several international psychiatry conferences.

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