Dr. Moona Chaudhry - Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Rukhsana Chaudhry, a clinical psychologist who specializes in Global Mental Health and trauma and Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology of the George Washington University partnered with CDRS to work with women, girls, and boys during a two-week mental health relief mission in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Dr. Chaudhry and CDRS worked with the Pehli Kiran school system, a school system which resides in the slum areas of Islamabad, Pakistan, to introduce a self-esteem and empowerment model to work with girls who were identified by their teachers as at-risk of performing poorly in school or experiencing abuse outside the school. She also introduced a bullying prevention and education model while working both boys and girls in the Pehli Kiran school system. Dr. Chaudhry worked with 48 children all together where she established twice-weekly gender-specific counseling groups.
These groups were established at two schools, Pehli-Kiran schools 4 and 5, which were identified by the organizations as having the most at-risk school populations. All the children were between the ages of 6 and 15 years old. In the younger –aged groups, she utilized art-based therapy modalities to explore the histories of the children and current environmental stressors while living in and around the slums. With the older-age groups, using role-play and a “safe-spaces” model, the children explored ways to manage stress and to cope with violence in their communities. During this period, Dr. Chaudhry provided individual counseling to 7 of the children in the Pehli Kiran who were had significant difficulty associating with their peers and described significant trauma and abuse in and around their home while in the group counseling sessions.
Dr. Chaudhry trained teachers within the Pehli Kiran school system, where she provided training on bullying prevention and intervention. She also provided training on recognizing signs of trauma in children and ways to talk to children about their feelings when they believe a child is struggling with difficult experiences. Dr. Chaudhry also provided a group therapy session for the teachers who were struggling to work collaboratively due to gender-specific issues and who were struggling with issues of safety in their communities.
Dr. Chaudhry counseled women who were referred to her as she began her work with CDRS. On many days, as individiuals and organizations came to know about the presence of a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma, women connected with the partnering organizations began requesting counseling from CDRS to work directly with Dr. Chaudhry. The women she counseled were victims of forced marriage and ongoing gender-based violence. Some had experienced sexual abuse early in their histories and later on in life. She provided short-term therapy consisting of three to four therapy sessions each week to these female patients throughout her two-weeks in Pakistan.
During the two- week mission, Dr. Chaudhry and CDRS provided counseling to girls who had been orphaned from a young age. These girls resided in Saba Homes in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. This home is a home for girls with diverse histories, including some who have faced trauma before and after their losses. Each of these girls expressed loneliness, confusion and struggle as they began to discuss their stories of losing their parents in the Kashmiri earthquake or due to illness. Utilizing a “Girls Only Safe Spaces” model, each of the girls shared feelings they had not shared before about themselves and their histories and began to write their own story, which included the achievement of their goals. This model is based on self-esteem building and empowerment exercises designed for girls who have suffered losses and/or trauma. By the end of the group therapy model, each girl learned how to identify their own unique strengths and express feelings where the other girls served as their main support. Dr. Chaudhry worked with 18 girls at the Saba Home for girls.