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Web-Based Counselling Set up for Traumatized Iraqis

Berlin psychologists have begun offering web-based therapy to Iraqi victims of war-related events and crimes.

A woman and a child inspect a car with blood splattered on the door after two Christian Iraqi women were shot to death in central Karradah, Baghdad

Many Iraqis have witnessed horrors beyond description

Berlin psychologists believe the impersonal medium will prompt victims of rape or kidnap to disclose more personal information than they would in a face-to-face encounter with a specialist.

"The Internet method is soothing for many victims because they do not have to speak to anyone specific or sit opposite someone," said Christine Knaevelsrud, a psychologist at Berlin's center for the treatment of torture victims (BZFO)

The free service, called Interapy, consists of three stages. First, victims must write four e-mails detailing what they saw and felt during their ordeal.

Next, the individual must write four letters to an imaginary friend who has experienced the same trauma -- this helps the victim rid themselves of any feelings of guilt associated with their suffering.

Finally, the patient is encouraged to write a further two letters, one to him- or herself and the other to the perpetrator of the wrongdoing. This step helps the victim say "you no longer have a role in my life."

"Some victims have been raped, some kidnapped," Knaevelsrud said. "Others have been maltreated during arrests or have seen mutilated bodies."

Around 250 victims -- mostly from Iraq, but also from Sudan, Syria, or Palestinian regions -- have used the online service.

The web-based therapy was created to fill a massive hole in the availability of psychological treatment in Iraq's more dangerous southern provinces.

The BZFO currently has a therapy center in Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, and has plans to set up two more clinics for traumatized Iraqis in the Middle East country.

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