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“Confronting the unimaginable: Psychotherapists’ reactions to victims of the Nazi Holocaust.”

Danieli, Yael
June 4, 2015

Source: (1988) In Human adaptation to extreme stress: From the Holocaust to Vietnam, ed. John P. Wilson, Zev Harel, and Boaz Kahana, 219-238. New York: Plenum Press.

Following World War II, assistance for surviving victims of the Holocaust did not include significant provision for their psychological needs. Danieli contends that a “conspiracy of silenceâ€? existed between psychotherapists and patients who were survivors. To support this, Danieli examines psychotherapists’ reactions to such patients as countertransference phenomena. Countertransference phenomena included defensive behaviors, “bystander’s guilt,â€? rage, shame and related emotions, dread and horror, grief and mourning, “privileged voyeurism,â€? and more. Danieli concludes with implications for training of psychotherapists to help them respond to massive trauma and its long-term effects.


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