Treatment for Psychosomatic Blindness among Cambodian Refugee Women


Van Boemel, Gretchen B., and Patricia D. Rozée. 1992. "Treatment for Psychosomatic Blindness among Cambodian Refugee Women." Women & Therapy 13 (3): 239-66.

Authors: Gretchen B. Van Boemel, Patricia D. Rozée


A number of older Cambodian women came to the attention of the authors because of their overrepresentation among a larger group of people who exhibited functional or psychosomatic blindness: visual loss with no physiologic basis. Myriad problems are faced by the psychosomatically blind Cambodian refugee, including war-based trauma, improper diagnosis resulting in denial of claims of disability, and feelings of severe depression and isolation. It was our intention to design and test an intervention program for the 150 psychosomatically blind Cambodian women whom we have seen over a four year period. Working with fifteen of these clients, we wished to test the relative effectiveness of two different treatments in reducing psychological distress and improving well-being and visual acuity: (1) Skills in living group: treatment consisted of group sessions designed to teach minimal skills such as using the telephone and public transportation; and (2) Therapy group: treatment consisted of group therapy conducted by a Cambodian therapist. Both treatment modalities were designed to be culturally relevant, implemented by Cambodians and in the Khmer language. Extensive pre and post-treatment interviews were conducted to assess level of visual acuity, psychological and physiological functioning and experiential background. Comparison of pre and post measures showed significantly better perceived well-being and improved visual acuity in the treatment groups as compared to the control group. Such findings may be beneficial in reducing psychological distress and improving vision.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Trauma Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 1992

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