Finding one’s Ooting again: Ankerland Trauma Therapy Centre

Burst graffiti with desperate boy
Photo: C. Fischer

Whether due to an accident, the loss of a loved one, physical or sexual assault – even young people are exposed to experiences that can lead to trauma. The coronavirus pandemic with lockdowns and homeschooling that lasted months on end has further aggravated the situation, increasing not only loneliness and existential fears but also cases of domestic violence. If these experiences are not dealt with and therapeutic support is not received, further suffering and massive behavioural problems are virtually inevitable.

However, traditional therapies in the context of an inpatient hospital stay are often only successful in the short term: when those affected return to their usual routines, they often find it difficult to incorporate the newly acquired behavioural patterns into their daily lives. The Ankerland Trauma Therapy Centre for children and adolescents in Hamburg takes a different approach. Opened in 2016, the welcoming and friendly building is the first intensive therapy facility for this age group in Germany, organised similar to a day clinic. Those in charge pursue an integrative, holistic approach oriented toward everyday life: in addition to language-oriented methods, art, music and body therapy – in close coordination – are the central pillars of the treatment. The outpatient support, which usually lasts several years, improves the young patients’ ability to apply the coping strategies they learn here on a long-term basis.

“Ankerland is a place where these young people can learn to deal with past traumas at their own pace, without feeling overwhelmed”, says Elke Rahmann, project manager at SAGST. “The additional services also provide support for what is often a completely overwhelming context.” In addition to the therapy centre, the Ankerland association provides comprehensive counselling and information on the difficult topic of traumatisation. This also includes the systematic networking of support options, the training and continuing education of therapeutic and medical staff, police officers and rescue workers, as well as pastoral or educational workers – a concept that serves as a model, as Rahmann emphasises: “We are pleased that, as a foundation, we can strengthen the important and healing work of the therapy centre and very much hope that this will help to establish the innovative work being done here in the long term.”