Neurology & Mental Health

Establishment of a training institute for psychotherapy in Iraq

Organisation: Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights gGmbH
Partner country: Iraq and Syria
Partner organisation in partner country: Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights



The past decades in Iraq and Syria have been marked by dictatorship, war, terror and displacement. In addition to the ongoing civil war in Syria, the terror of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) in particular has driven millions of people to flee their homes between 2014 and 2018. The increased need for psychological support meets a precarious shortage of specialists in these health professions.


The project's main goal is to provide survivors of violence and terror of all ages with access to improved health care at the intersection of medical/psychiatric/psychotherapeutic needs in the context of the humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria.

  1. The institute is formally established as a new department of the Jiyan Foundation, which includes a positive resolution of the Jiyan International Supervisory Board and inclusion in the organizational chart.
  2. One expert conference or networking event with at least 15 participants takes place per year.
  3. The institute has Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with at least three local or international partner universities.
  • The Jiyan Foundation is establishing a training institute based in Erbil, which aims to train and support health professionals in the areas of trauma, child/adolescent and adult psychotherapy and supervision.
  • Trained Jiyan Foundation staff provide seminars for local professionals who work directly with survivors and potentially traumatized people.
  • In cooperation with Iraqi colleagues (psychiatrists and psychologists) active in the Curriculum Middle East at the UKE, the project strives to establish a professional psychotherapists’ association in Iraq and to integrate it into the public health system.
  • Conferences, background talks and networking events are held to put psychotherapy and mental health on the public agenda.
  • The institute establishes collaborations with local universities and international academic institutions for knowledge transfer.
  • The institute is a partner for research on clinical psychology and psychotherapy.

The sustainable positive effect for the region and population is the growing independence from international and often short-term support. Training exclusively benefits local professionals who are responsible for psychological and psychotherapeutic care within the national health system.  
In addition, the fields of psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy are strengthened in the region in order to ultimately create more and better health services for a population torn by war and terror. In this sense, the project contributes to the UN sustainable development goals as it aims to help people claim and access their right to health and appropriate care. 

Special features:

Psychology and psychotherapy remain marginalized specialties in the Iraqi and Syrian health care systems. Degree programs in psychotraumatology and psychotherapy, such as the one at Duhok University, are an exception and are only possible with international funding. Promoting purely practical and non-academic training in the field is new, as is the attempt to lobby for this profession by establishing a psychotherapists’ association.

Here you can find further information.