If you wish to conduct an interview with a traumatized person, you need to proceed delicately. As a journalist, your responsibility is to avoid triggering or re-traumatizing your interviewee as you ask them to relay the information you want.
The following are brief points to consider before, during and after the meeting:
- Avoid labeling
Not every person that went through hardships is necessarily traumatized. Refrain from labeling people as traumatized.
- Avoid threatening environments
Let them select a safe, comfortable place that does not trigger memories and allow them the option of being accompanied by a supportive person during the interview.
- Avoid over-convergence
Balance between showing genuine validation and excess of sympathy or pity. The latter hurts people’s pride.
- Avoid pushing for details about the trauma
Let the interviewed person lead the conversation. Give them the full authority to reveal or refrain from disclosing hurtful information.
- Avoid dramatizing
There is no need to try and elicit tears or emotional content.
- Avoid letting the interview partner feel abused
Try to build connection and trust by setting clear expectations about the outcomes of the report (in terms of objectives, content, dates of publication, identification of names etc.). Keeping in contact with your interviewees, checking on them and getting their feedback on the report, is always recommended.
Khaled Nasser is a family communication consultant who specializes in trauma management, parenting and couples’ therapy. He also provides trauma therapy and training sessions to refugee communities and journalists exposed to toxic stress and conflicts in the Middle East.