Case Study

Case Study #1

International Justice Mission

This case study will focus on a young female intern (Intern 1) for International Justice Mission (IJM), and her debriefing with The Rest Initiative (TRI).

Intern 1, along with another female intern (Intern 2) of IJM, both in their mid-twenties, requested an intensive debriefing with TRI counseling team after a 10-month internship with IJM abroad Southeast Asia. Intern 1 and Intern 1 had both found the transition and process of adjusting to life back in the United States very difficult due to some mismanagement of the team of which they were both a part while overseas. A variety of other issues caused an unhealthy work environment for both girls.

It is widely known that International development can be very difficult work. It can be challenging for any individual to adjust to the unfamiliar settings in which development workers are placed. This often creates a disconnected environment that can make any worker or intern of such a high-pressure organization feel lonely and isolated. Unfortunately this just scratched the surface of the many issues both interns faced while overseas. Both ladies admit, that due to many difficult circumstances they endured with their team overseas, it made their adjustment back to the United States even more difficult than they had anticipated.

Neither of the interns felt the organization properly prepared them to step back into the lives they had left in order to work with IJM.  After returning to the U.S. each of the interns faced not only the common culture shock, but also many difficulties due to the unresolved issues which arose during their 10 month internship abroad. These conflicts turned this particular group of IJM’s interns into what Intern 1 referred to as “a pretty dysfunctional family.” While the teams worked abroad, a lack of appropriate management led to several disrupting issues, including alcohol abuse, inappropriate relationships and a lack of communication and proper management among the IJM team of interns. Though many of these complications among the team did not seem to be a major issue to the interns at the time, they quickly rose up to cause both girls to feel incapable, insecure and isolated. This made it difficult to move forward once they returned to the United States.

Intern 1 had been familiar with TRI’s work, after a friend, who had faced a similar situation, had shared her positive experience of the counsel she received from TRI. She strongly recommended Intern 1 seek our counsel. At IJM’s request, TRI created an all-inclusive weekend for a debriefing session that would be a thorough and holistic experience for the interns in order to bring them to a place of healing. The debriefing session in Orlando created time and an atmosphere for reflection and restoration; along with the several sessions for dialog with TRI’s counselors, various restorative activities were also included: a holistic spa, a yoga session, and in closing the last day was set aside for the interns to spend at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

After the intensive weekend of debriefing, both ladies were eager to share their stories. Each felt this step was not only beneficial but also crucial for a healthy adjustment back to life in the U.S. The intensive weekend offered both interns a new sense of confidence and clarity of mind to move forward in their new careers. Both also expressed a great decrease in their levels of anxiety and stress and a newfound security, especially with the follow-up support TRI continued to offer after the weekend intensive. They have continued to grow in this newfound restoration.

In whole, after what was a very secluded time during their internship and re-entry to their lives at home, the time with TRI reassured the girls that they were not alone in their healing process. Furthermore both girls were able to conclude a very healthy work relationship with IJM, feeling very grateful for their time with the organization. Both continue to feel positive about the work of IJM; they were more likely to stay in touch, be financially supportive and fully recommended others to sending agency. Additionally, they were more confident they would return to the field if the opportunity represented itself.

“The support that The Rest Initiative could provide on a broader basis isn’t just helpful, but really, really necessary.” As each of the IJM employees expressed, the debriefing provided them a sense of enduring completeness and support necessary to help move beyond their state and into complete healing.


Case Study #2

A humanitarian agency sent 35 aid workers from the United States on international assignment to two different locations. Both locations required workers to assimilate into cultures other than their own. All workers received minimal cultural and self-care training. Training included dialogue involving specific cultural information as pertained to assignments. Included in the self-care training was general information, resource material referrals, and minimal questioning of aid workers past experiences.
Three months into assignments, twenty-eight workers dealt with high levels of anxiety, stress, loneliness and/or depression as it related to cultural adjustments or work assignments. It was clear unhealthy coping skills were being used to manage the emotional stress which included past addictions, inappropriate relationships, disassociation, isolation, substance abuse and, burnout to name a few.
Eight months into assignment, sixteen workers returned to the United States due to emotional instability. Those who remained continued to struggle with emotional stress. This had lasting effects throughout the assignment and upon their return to the U.S.
Two months after return, twenty-nine workers showed signs of present emotional instability and were in need of coaching or therapy. A review of the assignments effectiveness showed limited success and effectiveness.

The Rest Initiative was recruited to assess the situation, develop a strategic staff-care plan and to implement it. Interviews were conducted with each aid worker who participated in the above-mentioned deployment. Observations and assessments were conducted for preplanning, deployment and re-entry curriculum and teaching approaches. Staff at headquarters were also interviewed to gain an understanding of the direct vision and purpose of the agency.
The Rest Initiative developed a specific strategic plan to care for aid workers overseas, which included pre-deployment, on assignment and re-entry curriculum and training. Clear objectives were outlined and plans to meet each one were developed.
Overall, specific objective assessments tools were used along with a practical training curriculum for self-care were made available to aid workers assigned to the agencies next deployment. Consistent, confidential contact was made with each internationally assigned worker via email, Skype, VoIP and/or cellular technology. A re-entry curriculum was developed and used prior to returning to primary culture and a one-month follow-up was established after return. Objective assessment tools were used again to measure emotional stability and assimilation, to establish mental health safety.

The development and implementation of a staff-care plan provided the humanitarian agency success in areas of mission effectiveness, aid worker stability, on-assignment retention, and overall employee satisfaction was measured at an all time high. Also, aid worker mental health resulted in significant improvement as evidenced by returning assessment scores. Aid workers were more stable during final transition back into primary culture and future employment as well. Lastly, overall satisfaction and company reputation was starting to communicate a more positive experience.