RFJ’s Model of Therapeutic Intervention

Relatives for Justice – Model of Intervention


Relatives for Justice (RFJ)  supports people bereaved or injured or a carer for someone who has been injured as a result of the conflict.

RFJ is an accredited service provider with the British Association for Counselling and Psychology. As an organisation we keep up to date with recent developments in traumatology.

We recognise that each individual has unique needs and that a one size fits all response will not help with the integration of these overwhelming experiencing in the long term.

Not everyone using RFJ services need psychotherapy or counselling, but many do.

RFJ provides a range of support which includes the opportunity to engage with a counsellor or therapist, should the need emerge.

RFJ provides a range of support as the various needs emerge, recognising the uniqueness of each individual.  In addition, as trauma first isolates and disconnects, RFJ through a programme of activities and events, supports connection with others who have survived similar events and are living with the outworkings of terrible experiences.   These needs emerge as a result of the complexities experienced by  individuals, their families and communities and the connection between all three impacting on various levels of life and relationship ie complex post traumatic stress syndrome.

Our trauma recovery model, which employs qualified clinicians who are fully accredited, are required to engage in private supervision, in addition to their own peer supervision and case management meetings with RFJ’s Clinical Lead, a consultant clinical psychologist.  This ensures each user receives quality care as all our clinicians adhere to the principles enshrined within the ethical principles of counselling and psychotherapy.

For many of our users, understandably, there is a deep distrust of government services. Often individuals will avail of RFJ with respect to legal issues which have arisen as a result of the unfinished business of the conflict.   People will often seek counselling and therapy as they engage with these legal processes – before, during or after as they manage the experience of working with events which many have occurred many years ago, are ever present during these legal processes.  Outcomes of these can also leave a person trying to manage very difficult and distressing responses.

The complexities emerge in relation to the unfolding social and political systems eg:  the continued absence of any form of wellbeing with information about events, the piecemeal approach regarding the past, ie, engaging with historic investigations.

As people get older impacts emerge in different ways both for the person who directly experienced the event many years previously but also for their children and grandchildren and other close family members. What we now call intergenerational trauma is a core part of our support services.

Historic investigations of unsolved killings remain a heavy burden on those who have not had answers as to how their loved ones died or indeed who was responsible.  Not being able to put the jig-saw together causes individuals within families to rely on stories or second hand information, only when the story is told can recovery begin. Family memories die as in many cases older members pass on, transcending down to siblings and grandchildren, the burden to carry the quest for truth and justice surrounding the death of the loved one.  Currently RFJ’s trauma programmes support families to the 2nd and 3rd generation.

RFJ recognises that compounding the daily distressing experiences of unintegrated trauma impacts when someone finally does risk speaking out, there is the added burden of having to prove that they were indeed injured as a result of the conflict.  Accessing documentation through bodies that no longer hold records such as solicitors and hospitals in order to be acknowledged by the many layers of government and state bureaucracy cause the traumatic experience to be reduce to a paper trail resulting in the individual becoming re-triggered and re-traumatised. In addition those who suffer the unseen psychological injury are required to undergo further stringent examination in order to have their experience reduced to a medical label.

Generally speaking RFJ’s model of intervention is grounded on the Herman model of trauma recovery encompassing:-

  • Safety
  • Trust
  • Remembrance and Mourning
  • Reconnection

with the additional neurobiological developments which takes the experience of the body as the starting point for trauma integration.

And including a context of human rights and social justice

At RFJ we have learned over many years that a multi-layered approach taking into account the unique experience of each person provides the best opportunity for long-term symptom relief, greater resilience and integration.  In respect of this we have discovered and take the view in our work that

  • Trauma is a natural occurrence in the lives of human beings which we are hard wired to overcome, and sometimes this doesn’t happen. Not all frightening experiences result in post traumatic stress but some do. With the right support at the right time people can recover reasonably quickly.  Trauma is life threatening but need not be a life sentence.
  • Trauma is in the nervous system holds the traumatic experiences not in the event.
  • The person has survived. Everyone who has survived trauma has had to do something creative and unique in order to survive. At RFJ we start with the survival capacity of the client rather than the horror of the story
  • Trauma is experienced uniquely by each person. We learn how the person has survived and how they have managed the experienced. Trauma has many origins and after effects.
  • Trauma is also transformative. We recognize that trauma transforms lives and that trauma energy can produce contributions to society
  • People seek support when the survival strategy has become problematic.
  • Resilience and grief are at the heart of trauma recovery
  • The present moment is the only context available for working with the experience
  • Trauma is integrated not cured


[1] Van Den Kolk ,Bessel   The Body Keeps the Score Viking 2014

Levine, Peter  In an Unspoken Voice North Atlantic Books 2010

[2][2] Ferry, F., Bolton, D., Bunting, B., Devine, B., McCann, S., & Murphy, S. (2008). Trauma, Health and conflict in Northern Ireland. University of Ulster.

[3] Jon McClure, ‘The Script Report’, (The Detail, 17 November 2014)

http://script-report.thedetail.tv/accessed 22 January 2015


[4] Herman Judith Lewis, Trauma and Recovery From Domestic Violence to Political Terrorism  Pandora 1992

[5] Ethical principles of counselling and psychotherapy

http://www.bacp.co.uk/ethical_framework/ethics.php (gathered 3 February 2015)



[6] Herman, Judith Lewis (1992) Trauma and Recovery from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror Pandora

[7] Danieli, Yael International handbook of multigenerational legacies of trauma Plenum Press New York 1998

[8] Yehuda, R et al (2005). Transgenerational Effects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Babies of Mothers Exposed to the World Trade Center Attacks during Pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, DOI: 10.1210/jc.2005-0550

[9] Mike Tomlinson, ‘Poverty and Social Exculsion in N.Ireland, Legacies of Conflict’ (Queens University Belfast, 28 August 2014)

http://www.qub.ac.uk/home/ceao/News/Title,458964.en.html> accessed 3 February 2015

[10] Supra note 4

[11] Yael Danieli, Psychotherapists’ participation in the conspiracy of silence about the Holocaust. Psychoanalytic Psychology (1984) vol. 1, 23-42

[12] Fay, M.T., Morrissey, M., & Smyth, M. (1999). Northern Ireland’s Troubles: The human cost. London: Pluto Press.

[13] WKM Solutions, “The Victims and Survivors Service, An Independent Assessment’, 2014