Achieving peace is the most important goal for Ukrainians. After the victory, Ukraine will face the consequences of the war's impact on the consciousness and mental health of Ukrainians, as the phenomenon of post-traumatic syndrome will spread. As a result, the question of restoring the psychological health of citizens, particularly vulnerable and unprotected groups of society, such as children, arises.
In 2020–2021, the NGO Development Foundation, together with Wesleyan University (Connecticut, USA), implemented the Vitality Project Donbas pilot project within the framework of the UN Peacebuilding and Reconstruction Program. The project involved the application of somatic practices in psychotherapy by psychologists selected on a competitive basis from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in areas affected by the armed conflict with Russia. Psychologists evaluated each client's condition while working with them using tablets equipped with the Vitality/"Psychologist's Package" program, and they also built a visualization of the dynamics of veterans' stabilization as a result of counseling.
The software for the project was developed by the Lviv-based IT company Indeema Software Inc., and it allows psychologists to collect, process, and transmit client data even without a stable Internet connection (which is an important problem in a war zone).
After the full-scale invasion in February 2022, the project has become even more relevant and is expanding its activities to help families affected by the war. The Vitality/Psychologist Package application is a tool that will help you get a clear picture of the psychological state of victims of Russia's war against the Ukrainian people. Thus, psychologists will be able to gather information, carry out surveys, and aid in the recovery of the psychological health of war victims with the aid of an application (software) loaded on tablets.
The need for psychologists' work is crucial. Children, who are an unprotected group in society, are exposed to adult stress and are unable to understand the issue or recognize the need for psychological support. That is why the Vitality project is designed to help school psychologists minimize the consequences of war on the family, because children are the future of Ukraine.
How school psychologists began to use the Vitality/Psychologist Package
From July 11 to 23, 2022, two groups of specialists were trained to work with trauma and PTSD. The training was organized in partnership with the NGO "Community of Self-Help", the Wayne State University School of Social Work and the Clairpointe Family Therapy company within the framework of the UN Peacebuilding and Reconstruction Program. The course preparation was based on the therapy of first choice in the USA (based on the results of 30 years of international research) in the treatment of post-traumatic stress after the war: cognitive process therapy. The scientific validity of this therapy in the world and the innovativeness of this therapy for Ukraine are important parts of this project.
The participants were equipped with a menu and the necessary materials for mastering the psychotherapeutic tool. The handout was adapted from the translated English version.
Psychologists were introduced to the most well-known screening methods used in the United States to assess conditions requiring psychotherapeutic intervention: PTSD, depression, and other comorbid effects of war-related traumatic experiences—substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, panic disorder, OCD, self-harm and suicide, etc. They included PHQ-9 and PCL-5 scores.
Participants underwent a certification assessment before and after the training and received certificates upon completion that allow them to work with clients who were traumatized during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The adaptation of the Vitality/Psychologist Package application became a logical step in ensuring the effectiveness of the work of psychologists who have completed a course in Cognitive Process Therapy. The solution, developed by Indeema Software, allows the psychologist to collect data by placing it in the user interface of the application.
The main goal of the Vitality/Psychologist Package Application is to provide access to advanced methodical materials and psychosomatic techniques for a psychologist on one tablet. This allows the psychologist to work in the field (abroad).
The Vitality/Psychologist Package application is an important part of the development of the field of psychological assistance and rehabilitation, which is just beginning to develop in Ukraine.
Protection of sensitive customer data
While developing the Vitality/Psychologist Package Application, the main mission of Indeema Software, Inc. was to ensure that personal data was collected and stored in the most secure manner possible.
The Vitality/Psychologist Package consists of several components. The first is an Android application with a user-friendly interface that is used to collect and process information. The second is accumulative, as it consists of two different servers on which data is stored. In particular, the decision to create a setup with two databases ensures their security.
One database is used to store personal information, and the other is used to store specific information about the client's condition, notes from the psychological service provider, etc. This de-identified data is the most important part of the research. In the 2020-2021 study, data for processing was sent to Wesleyan University for analysis in the Center for Quantitative Analysis, which ensured the quality and reliability of the study conclusions. Currently, the data that will be aggregated in the "Psychologist Package" program will not be sent for analysis, but it is promising for future research.
Finally, it is important to note that the psychologist can only begin the diagnosis and assessment of the client's condition after the client has signed consent for counseling and research. If the consent is not signed, the program will not allow the data to be included in the study. Also, each client (research participant) can withdraw their consent at any time. Thus, on the part of the development team, we have protected the rights of the client.
A noble mission by joint efforts
Psychological assistance to children and adults who find themselves in circumstances they cannot change is more than a job. This is a noble mission that only brave people can handle. Indeema Software, Inc., NGO Community Self-Help, and the United Nations Program for Reconstruction and Peacebuilding have come together for the great goal of helping those in dire need of psychological support.
With the development of technologies, it became possible to influence not only certain technological processes but also to introduce innovations into people's daily lives, in particular, to help them overcome psychological barriers, overcome fear and anxiety, and heal not only physically but also spiritually. This is a great project that will change the future of Ukraine, as it will help overcome the devastating impact of the war on Ukrainians.