University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Psychological Science

New App Provides Between-Session Therapy for Refugees

When Karen Fondacaro’s psychotherapy clients experience a debilitating flashback of torture, rape or other trauma they endured, they have specific techniques to cope with those emotional flare ups. If the flashback causes panic, they can do a breathing exercise. If they shift to a disassociated state, losing touch with their bodies or surroundings, they can try a grounding technique that brings them back to their physical world.

Many of Fondacaro’s clients, though, have trouble taking those helpful steps once at home and outside the therapy room. Fondacaro and her clinical team specialize in working with Vermont’s resettled refugees, primarily in the Somali Bantu and Bhutanese communities, whose language barriers and gaps in understanding -- not to mention the normal distractions of daily life -- make it difficult to call upon the lessons they learn in treatment.

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