RUG: Psychology in Humanitarian Action

98 h
  • Course description

    This module aims at providing insight into psychological factors that play an important role in many aspects of humanitarian disasters. The effects disasters have on their victims as well as on aid workers are often tremendous. Victimisation and traumatisation of these actors are the important issues in this module. The people involved can be described as group members, but also as unique individuals experiencing various reactions to extreme situations. Knowledge about stress, stress management and problem solving in general is therefore important for humanitarian aid workers. Findings from clinical and social psychology are used to give the students insight into psychological mechanisms related to humanitarian disasters, to recognise normal and abnormal reactions to trauma, and to give guidelines for tackling both individual and group related problems.
  • Main themes

    Introduction to psychology
    Intra- and intergroup relations, and cultural factors
    Stress, stress management, and problem solving
    Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
    Psychosocial programmes in humanitarian action
    Psychology as a social science
    Usefull tools to assess people
  • Learning outcomes

    Participants in this Psychology module should achieve the following learning outcomes by the end of the module:
    • Knowledge and understanding of the basic elements in the discipline of psychology and other supporting disciplines required for the identification and analysis of acute and chronic mental health problems.
    • Knowledge and understanding of mental health problems from mild to severe manifestations and the capacity to interpret mental health problems from an individual and interpersonal perspective as well as being aware of the psychological factors involved in humanitarian action.
    • Awareness of the physical, psychological and interpersonal health risks of relief workers themselves in the field.
    • Development of a flexible thinking style in order to acquire various perspectives to existing and emerging humanitarian and related problems.
    • Awareness of psychological social, cultural, religious, ethical and gender aspects in mental health.
    • Capability to reflect in a critical way on mental health programs and scientific research related to humanitarian action.
    • Ability to recognize the psychological and interpersonal consequences of changing and challenging circumstances and to adequately adapt to these circumstances.
  • Teaching and learning methodology

    1. Homework assignments
    Some individual or group homework assignments will be given to promote active involvement in the topics presented. Homework is compulsory and should be send to the coordinator by e-mail before Monday 17.00 hrs. (unless otherwise indicated).
    Homework assignments are graded as ‘passed’ (i.e. completed and delivered according to instructions), or ‘failed’. In the latter case the coordinator will give an alternative assignment that should be handed in the subsequent week.
    2. Psychology paper
    This module ends with the completion of a paper in which psychological perspectives, relevant information, and considerations of the students are integrated in a clear argumentation. The final paper is therefore based upon (1) material presented during the sessions, (2) the course literature, and (3) a specific literature search carried out by the students themselves. The paper’s aim is to reach a deeper and actively acquired understanding of one of the areas presented during the module.
    As a first step in the writing process students are required to submit a half page synopsis of the paper in which the research question is formulated and presented in broad outline. One can start with the actual literature search and writing after approval from the coordinator.
  • Assessment methods and criteria

    Papers will be graded by the coordinator on a scale from 1 to 9. In addition to this grade students will receive individual feedback in the form of a checklist (see appendix).
    Final marking: The module will be completed when a student (a) has passed the individual paper, and (b) has fulfilled all homework assignments.

Last updated: 9 November 2016

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