Tibetans' coping mechanisms following torture: An interview study of Tibetan torture survivors' use of coping mechanisms and how these were supported by western counseling

  • Elsass P
  • Phuntsok K
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Abstract

Western fascination with Buddhism means that Westerners consider Buddhist psychology for building up resilience regarding mental disorders and for creating building blocks for “the art of happiness.” This study evaluates the effect of Buddhist spirituality on resilience to torture. In all, 102 Tibetan torture survivors were interviewed about their coping mechanisms in overcoming trauma; 36 of these survivors were receiving counseling, and both the 16 professionals and their clients were interviewed after the treatment with open-ended questions about what was helpful and not helpful. Our results from both the assessment and the counseling study support the claim that Tibetan torture survivors use their political engagement and Tibetan Buddhism as an important coping mechanism. All clients expressed satisfaction with the counseling even if it did not enhance the political and spiritual coping. But nobody mentioned counseling in any open-ended interview, except when directly asked.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Coping
  • Imprisonment
  • Refugees
  • Tibet
  • Torture

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Authors

  • Peter Elsass

  • Kalsang Phuntsok

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