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Regeneration: Testimonial Mental Health Treatment Among Survivors of the Khmer Rouge Regime

This webinar was recorded on September 17, 2021


Anthropologist Elena Lesley will be joining Anthropologist and CKS President Eve Zucker on a webinar to discuss Lesley’s work on trauma and memory in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge. Topics will include Lesley’s ethnographic research on mental health treatment for survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime as well as her previous research on other Khmer Rouge tribunal-related outreach initiatives.  For her most recent project, Lesley followed the treatment experiences of survivors undergoing “Testimonial Therapy” administered by the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization. Originally used in Latin America, Testimonial Therapy has been adapted for use in a number of different cultural settings. In the Cambodian context, it has been altered to include the addition of a modified Bangsokol ceremony. 

In her research, Lesley tracked those undergoing the therapy and recorded their personal narratives, observed their therapeutic sessions, conducted interviews, and recorded symptoms using a locally derived mental health instrument. Despite some challenges in adapting Testimonial Therapy to the Cambodian context, she found it to be a “success” in several respects, as demonstrated through recorded symptom trajectories and interviews with survivors and their social networks. In addition to anthropologists, her work will be relevant to scholars and practitioners who are interested in cross-cultural illness and healing and the possibilities for spiritual adaptation of international health interventions.

The webinar will be in a discussion format.


Speaker: Elena Lesley is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at Emory University. She first came to Cambodia as a Henry Luce Scholar at The Phnom Penh Post in 2004 and has worked over the past 16 years in projects related to memory of the Khmer Rouge period, tribunal-related outreach and mental health. Her research has been published in Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, Genocide Studies and Prevention and multiple edited academic volumes. She was a CKS Dissertation Research Fellow in 2019 and also held a Multi-Country Fellowship from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers to conduct research on memorial sites in Cambodia and Rwanda.

Khmer-language Mental Health Resources

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the publications and through webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. The designations employed in the publications and through the webinars, and the presentation of material therein, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. as to the matters discussed therein. The responsibility for opinions expressed in the publications and webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers, and the publication does not constitute an endorsement by The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. of the opinions, views or issues discussed therein.


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