Strengthening sustainability of psychosocial healthcare

The number of people with mental health problems in Palestine continues to rise, but there is a lack of infrastructure, resources and qualified staff to provide treatment. Currently, international experts provide help, but this is expensive and not sustainable. As part of this project, Caritas offers training in psychotherapy. The aim is for the population to have access to 30 psychologically trained people who are familiar with Palestinian culture. 


Country / Region / Place
Palestine / West Bank

Target group
A minimum of 3,780 clients gain access to culturally appropriate and professional mental and psychosocial health care using a ripple mapping effect; with individuals, communities and mental & psychosocial health organisations profiting from increased awareness and improved qualifications in the field. The practical skills and technical expertise of up to 30 trainees are strengthened.

Funding requirement
CHF 443,598

Project duration
01.09.2017 to 31.12.2020 

Project number

Project objective
Contribute to the strengthening and increased sustainability of mental and psychosocial health services provided to the Palestinian population in the West Bank by ensuring availability of and access to best practice/excellent/high level of psychotherapy and mental health care services and support for the Palestinian population in the West Bank; and by ensuring availability of internationally recognized long-term and in depth training in psychotherapy for Palestinian community mental and psychosocial health professionals in the West Bank.

Project coordinator
Caritas Switzerland, infonot shown@caritasto make life hard for spam


Background information

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, which is characterized by ongoing blockades, arrests, human rights abuses, repeated military aggressions, illegal settlement building, settler violence, the ongoing construction of the Separation Wall, home destructions, and many other injustices, all having a devastating effect on the physical, psychosocial and mental health of Palestinians. While there have been improvements over the last two decades in the physical health status, there has been a marked increase in mental health and psychosocial disorders, such as depression, ongoing anxieties, aggressive behaviours, family violence and other psychosocial triggers. Marginalized groups such as refugees and Bedouins, who prioritize survival and steadfastness in the face of obstacles, as well as children and women are often those most affected but with the least access to health resources and services, due to financial or socio-cultural factors. Overall, percentage estimates of Palestinians in need of mental and psychosocial health interventions range from 30% - 40%. This alarming statistic is a stark reminder that mental and psychosocial disorders are one of the largest but least acknowledged of all health crises. In addition to a lack of knowledge and awareness within the population, there remains a strong stigma and social taboo attached to those experiencing mental health and psychosocial problems.

The existing mental and psychosocial health care system is ill-equipped to deal with the needs of the Palestinian population: In addition to insufficient infrastructure, it is vastly under-resourced with too few qualified personnel. Although the urgent need for more specialized professionals is acknowledged by the Palestinian Authority, there has not been as of yet any strategy developed to close this gap.

In addition to improvements regarding the numbers of mental and psychosocial health care professionals, there is also a requirement to improve the quality of their trainings: Palestinian Universities typically offer BA degrees in psychology or social work, largely theoretically-based, but lacking the practical experience to develop the skills essential to working with people in this field, including communication, building relationships and being able to understand and respond to non-verbal distress signals.

This experience may be acquired over a period of years in the form of short-term training programmes, however none of these programmes offer in-depth, long-term intensive training, both clinical and practical within an organisation. The result is a lack of well-trained mental and psychosocial health professionals specialized in psychotherapy.

Currently this gap is covered by international experts, which is costly, dependent on external funding, and often not adapted to the unique Palestinian cultural, social and geopolitical context. It also fails to address the long-terms needs of the population as well as strategies related to exit plans and sustainability.  


What are we doing?

The goal of this project is to improve of the mental and psychosocial health care services in the West Bank to ensure that adequate services are available to the Palestinian population all impacted on by the ongoing occupation and inherent stresses and distresses within this.

This will be achieved via two groups of 30 trainees during a 3-year training programme; Group 1 from September 2017 – August 2019 and Group 2 from September 2018 to August 2020. Participants will graduate from an accredited post-graduate programme supported by Al Quds University integrating academic and clinical components, while simultaneously continuing to work with clients and communities under supervision. A minimum of 3,780 clients (children, men and women, refugees and Bedouins) will initially benefit directly though support services by the trained psychotherapists during the 3-year programme, as the programme requires trainees to continue their ongoing work with clients under supervision. In addition, there are a number of secondary beneficiaries totaling approximately 300 including staff of participating organisations who will undergo capacity development through Internal training workshops with the trainees. In addition, approximately 1,800 individuals, including children, men and women, refugees and Bedouins will be targeted through awareness sessions with the trainees in a number of location on topics such as basic mental and psychosocial health information and available supports and strategies for responding to community, mental and psychosocial health stigma This model uses a ripple mapping affect in order to reach out to an increasing number of beneficiaries.

Considering the existing lack of best practice support as well as lack of trained professionals, the postgraduate clinical/in-house/practical training in psychotherapy for mental and psychosocial health professionals will clearly contribute to alleviating the present stretched and inadequate responses available. The objective is to reduce the incidents of family and sexual violence and develop strong indicators for improved psychosocial health in areas such as children’s school performance (as measured using school reports) and increased wellbeing and productivity in adults (as measured using self-reports).

The capacity building in community mental health and psychosocial organisations aims to reinforce their knowledge base and strengthen their community advocacy, ensuring easier access to mental and psychosocial health care, and a greater awareness of its value in the community. Through integrating theoretical modules with practical work-based skills, the graduates of this programme (together with the mental and psychosocial health organisations they work for) will strive to reach those in the communities most marginalized requiring support and work with them to achieve happier and more fulfilling lives.

Importantly, these 30 qualified psychotherapists will become long-term assets and contribute to the development of best practice standards in mental and psychosocial health care expertise throughout Palestine. 


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