Pedrito The Blood of the Ancestors

Clinicians around the world struggle to treat the effects of war and violence on children and young people. The task of returning former child soldiers to society has been particularly challenging. In sub-Saharan Africa, local clinicians noted that short-term Western therapies were not adequate to the task, and began to supplement a combination of community-based interventions with treatment by traditional healers. This article explicates the ways in which the work of these healers owes its effectiveness to sound psychodynamic principles. Among the important characteristics of such treatment techniques is the availability of a constant object in the person of the healer, the recognition of the importance of symbolic processes and latent meaning, and the means to address and manage the aggression that has been evoked by participation in war and violence. The article chronicles the case history of one former child soldier from Angola. It describes how he was recruited, what he experienced, and the complicated treatment that lead to his recovery. Psychoanalytic literature is utilized, along with the theoretical work of Angolan psychologists, to explicate the psychodynamic underpinnings of the healer work.

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