“We can’t distance ourselves from pain and trauma. We are immersed in them, because the basic principle of creating trust is that you will genuinely connect.”

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Episode notes

Mario is a clinician and psychotherapist, who first started working with Guatemalan immigrants to the USA in the early 1990s.

These days he’s clinical supervisor at the Marjorie Kovler Centre in Chicago (link), a part of the Heartland Alliance. He works with people claiming political asylum, and helps on initiatives elsewhere around the world.

We discuss the personal journey of thirty years’ work with thousands of severely traumatised people, what works in rebuilding resilience, and the gradual growth of the field.

Topics discussed:

[02:30] Mario’s work with survivors of torture, and how they can rebuild and move on with their lives. How people react to his job when he meets them socially.

[11:20] How to reach people across cultural and language divides. Finding cultural and spiritual resources to build resilience.

[22:15] Application of the Kovler Center’s approach in Guatemala, Colombia, and other contexts where resources for this kind of work are not abundant.

[27:00] How psychotherapy can work for people who have had their trust in people and institutions destroyed. What the first steps look like.

[37:00] How Mario manages the cumulative stress of dealing with thousands of cases of torture. How to balance genuine empathy with self-care over the long term.

[46:15] The evolution of the field over thirty years, from modest  beginnings to its present state. Mario’s key intellectual and practical influences.