Do No Harm: Challenges in Organizing Psychosocial Support to Displaced People in Emergency Settings

Michael G. Wessells


Psychosocial assistance in emergencies plays an important role in alleviating suffering and promoting well-being, but it is often a source of unintended harm. A prerequisite for ethically appropriate support is awareness of how psychosocial programs may cause harm. This paper underscores the importance of attending to issues of coordination, dependency, politicization of aid, assessment, short-term assistance, imposition of outsider approaches, protection, and impact evaluation. With regard to each of these issues, it suggests practical steps that may be taken to reduce harm and maximize the humanitarian value of psychosocial assistance.

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