CINTRAS: Center for Psychological Health and Human Rights in Chile

From September 1973 until March 1990 the military dictatorship of general Pinochet ruled Chile. Even though Chile has a democratic government, the effects of the dictatorship have left psychological traces, which can be found sometimes in the third generation of the victims. This is where the work of CINTRAS begins.

CINTRAS was founded in 1985 as a Non-governmental organization, in order to treat people psychologically that suffered inhumane treatment. In Chile the dictatorship was only partially reprocessed, few of the perpetrators of inhumane treatment were arrested and taken to trial. 

Therapeutic Work

The aim of CINTRAS is to alleviate the emotional suffering of persons who were tortured or otherwise politically repressed. CINTRAS cares for people who have suffered from many different forms of human rights violations: torture, political murder, “vanishing”, arbitrary detainment, exile etc. 

Even today-more than 20 years after Chile’s return to democracy-many people are still in need of psychological and psychiatric care. Though the worst of the human rights violations are many years back, similar like with the followed of the Nazi regime in Germany the aftermath of human rights crime often last for years, and in some cases affect the next generation. Therefore today’s patients of CINTRAS are also children and grandchildren of direct murder, torture and exile affected persons. This group of patients often suffers of panic attacks, insomnia, psychic and bodily strain or difficulty in relationship with people who they are close to.

A Place were they are understood

It is very important for these people to have a place were there problems are understood and helped. The workers of CINTRAS-many of which were followed during the dictatorship-are specially educated to treat survivors of human rights violations and can take the stories of the patients and order them politically. Through this they can successfully treat patients and have an important empathy towards their special needs. 

In recent time the help of CINTRAS is often needed in other contexts, which have nothing to do with the history of the dictator. Among others CINTRAS also cares for people of the indigenous tribe Mapuche that have engaged in the rights of their ethnic group (for example through protests against the plan for the building of a damn) and were mistreated by the police. 

CINTRAS also cares for adolescents who by demonstrating peacefully for better education system, feel the violence of the police. In Chile many of the schools and universities are owned by private pockets, through which a good school and university education is dependent on the income of the parents. Against the extremely unequal education chances and the partly bad classes since 2006 and especially in the last two years a strong protest movement under the adolescents. 

The team of CINTRAS is put together interdisciplinary. The many preparations make it possible for a broad care, depending on the needs of the patients, as single, family or group therapy.

The care offers are:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Kinesiotherapy (relaxing, care of psychosomatic symptoms)
  • Physical therapy (return of motor function, advancement of communication in informal settings)
  • Social work (re-acclimatization into the social surrounding, help in finding new work, retirement applications etc)

The most important patient groups are:

  • Torture survivors (many of which have spend years in jail)
  • Family members of “vanished people” 
  • Family members of those murdered by the military dictatorship
  • Returned from exile (often also torture survivors)
  • Recently also indigenous (Mapuches) and members of adolescent organizations

Public work and research activities

Generally the organization is for Human Rights and lobbies against torture and decriminalization as the premise for a lasting democratization of the land. 

In order to sensitize the community CINTRAS works with similar organizations in Latin America (Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil etc) and keeps contact with the rehabilitation center for torture victims IRCT in Copenhagen and other Human Rights organizations inside and outside the country. 

Next to caring for patients CINTRAS also has conducted research to psychosocial topics and diverse publication about psychological and psychosocial implications of torture, “vanished” and unpunishment. 

Hot topics of Public Work:

  • Publication bi-yearly of the magazine “Refelxión”, that is about human rights and psychosocial topics
  • Presentations and research publications of CINTRAS employees with the main topic “human rights and psychological health”
  • Documentation center and small libraries to human rights violations in Chile and Latin America 

Since 1990 Chile has a democratic government after a terrible military dictatorship. The aftermath of the dictatorship is still lasting till this day and leaves psychological wounds partially till the third generation of a victim. That is where the work of CINTRAS begins, recently becoming partners with schwelle Foundation.  


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