The myth of creating an integrative story: The therapeutic experience of Holocaust survivors

Michal Shamai, Orna Levin-Megged

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, the authors explore how Holocaust survivors experience therapy. The qualitative method by which the authors illuminate the therapeutic experience is in-depth interviews with 11 survivors. They base their analysis on the phenomenological tradition and use psychodynamic perspective as a heuristic device, generating five main themes: (a) knowing and not knowing the story of the trauma, (b) therapy as a reproduction of the trauma and its aftermath, (c) the fight to keep the therapist as a split object, (d) the perception of therapy as interminable, and (e) creating alternative narratives. Overall, the findings contradict the traditional perception, in which the goal of therapy is defined as one of integrating the traumatic narrative with the entire life story. Successful therapy, as was found in the present study, is often experienced when the traumatic narrative is put into a capsule separated from other parts of the life story.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-712
Number of pages21
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Holocaust
  • Psychotherapy
  • Qualitative evaluation
  • Survivors
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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