Testimonial Psychotherapy in Immigrant Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence: A Case Series

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Transcultural Psychiatry








cross-cultural psychiatry; immigrant; intimate partner violence; narrative therapy; refugees; testimonial psychotherapy


© The Author(s) 2018. Testimonial psychotherapy is a therapeutic ritual for facilitating the recovery of survivors of human rights violations that focuses on sharing the trauma narrative. Originally developed in Chile as a method for collecting evidence during legal proceedings, testimonial therapy has been widely applied transculturally as a unique treatment modality for populations that are not amenable to traditional Western psychotherapy. In this case report, we first review the literature on testimonial therapy to this date. We go on to describe how testimonial therapy has been specifically adapted to facilitate recovery for immigrant survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). We present three Latin American women who underwent testimonial psychotherapy while receiving psychiatric treatment at a Northern Virginia community clinic affiliated with the George Washington University. The therapy consisted of guided trauma narrative sessions and a Latin- American Catholic inspired reverential ceremony in a Spanish-speaking women's domestic violence group. In this case series we provide excerpts from the women's testimony and feedback from physicians who observed the ceremony. We found that testimonial psychotherapy was accepted by our three IPV survivors and logistically feasible in a small community clinic. We conceptualize testimonial psychotherapy as a humanistic therapy that focuses on strengthening the person. Our case report suggests testimonial psychotherapy as a useful adjunct to formal psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress symptoms.

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