The Tree of Life: a community approach to empowering and healing survivors of torture in Zimbabwe
The article explores the effectiveness of the use of an empowerment workshop, called the Tree of Life, in the treatment of torture survivors. The approach is based on a survivor-to-survivor model of assistance.
The Tree of Life is a group-based approach to the healing and empowerment of survivors of organized violence and torture. It is facilitated by survivors themselves who have been trained and supervised in the methodology. It uses the metaphor of the tree to provide a framework for understanding the trauma experience, and, through a series of inter-related processes, leads the survivor into an appreciation of his or her strengths and the support of the community in surviving.
Research into the effectiveness of the method is carried out using pre and post measures in a psychiatric screening instrument measuring depression and anxiety. Participants were also asked for feedback in a structured self-report upon completion of the workshop. In addition, an exit interview was conducted after follow-up, three months after the first workshop session.