Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 15 Issue 2 (March/April 2005), Pages 83-152

Psycho‐social support to large numbers of traumatized people in post‐conflict societies: an approach to community development in Guatemala (pages 136-152)


The main challenge for community development efforts in post‐conflict societies with large numbers of traumatized people is to create hope and reconciliation through community healing and participatory democratic community development. The community development efforts should aim at creating a set of values and practices conducive to peaceful co‐existence through non‐violent conflict resolution, thereby reducing the alarming levels of violence in post‐conflict societies.

This article describes a community development approach in Guatemala to supporting people affected by organized violence and torture. Through a description of the theoretical and practical work carried out in post‐conflict Guatemala through the ODHAG‐RCT programme, the article focuses on the relation between the three main pillars of the community development approach; healing, empowerment, and development. The community development approach uses health as the entry strategy to its aim of social and political transformation. Traditionally, health is not perceived as being linked with social and political transformation, but rather as the means to increase the health condition of community members. However, this article will show how community social psychology can be integrated in an understanding of political and economic community development. Hence it is argued that the outcome of the community development approach is measured through observations of the group as well as the political and economic developments of the community, and not only through a decrease in health related symptoms. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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