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Our Theory


Mental Health and Psychosocial Support 

Capoeira al-Shababi works under the framework of MHPSS (mental health and psychosocial support) by providing services that aim to protect and improve the psychosocial wellbeing of its beneficiaries and prevent mental disorders. Capoeira al-Shababi offers community and family support and focused, non-specialised support. 


Community and family supports

We provide community support through informal educational activities and the activation of social networks and youth communities. 

Our trainings and classes foster group bonding and social skills. We develop a community of support that is very useful in preventing the development of psychological disorders and challenges for the future of children and youth.

Focused, non-specialised support

We work with small groups of children and youth to identify and support the emotional and mental wellbeing through specialised activities. Capoeira activities involve body movements, music therapy and group discussions, all of which happen in safe spaces. 


Capoeira al-Shababi focuses on:

  • Treating light to moderate psychosocial difficulties
  • Enhancing resilience and capacity of children and youth in disadvantaged and conflict areas
  • Empowering children and youth
  • Identifying cases for referral to specialised MHPSS support

Why Capoeira?

Movement, music and theatre are the cornerstones of training capoeira, and together they offer a holistic therapeutic relief for children and youth facing traumatic stress. Playing capoeira is done in partners who trust and respect one another. To play the game of capoeira, you must be confidentself-aware, and trusting; training in this develops life skills in children and adolescents that will increase their resilience and capacity later on. Capoeira also creates a strong community feeling through shared songs, dances, names and conventions. The importance of a strong community network has been shown to be the most significant factor determining whether traumatic incidents have a long-term effect on youth. Capoeira al-Shababi's trainings and activities incorporate live music and games focused on body awareness, social engagement and attunement. They build strengthcuriosity and playfulness for an all-encompassing program of mental and emotional wellbeing support for youth.

Trauma, brain and Body

Trauma has its greatest impact on youth. This is because these years are the most crucial to develop social skills, self-reliance and resilience, which are damaged by the impact of traumatic stress. The crises and traumas witnessed by underprivileged youth in the Middle East fundamentally transform brain, mind and body to create a lasting impact on long-term wellbeing and even physical health. 

Trauma creates a body tense in preparation for threat, and a mind unable to focus and plan because the brain continues to secrete stress hormones. Neurological research shows how comprehensive are the brain/body transformations after trauma. Fortunately, research in neuroplasticity has also shown how body work can reorganise the patterns and functions of brain neurons so that imbalances and irregularities can be healed. This research demonstrates how focusing on the body first is an effective method to begin to heal traumatic stress. 



Healing from traumatic stress

Because trauma tends to shut down the rational and linguistic brain areas, it is crucial for trauma treatment to include body therapy. This is especially the case for children and youth who lack appropriate vocabulary to talk about and express their feelings. Healing is only partial if it does not attend to the many ways the body and brain are transformed by trauma. In order to process and integrate the traumatic incident(s) into one's life, we must re-activate the brain areas necessary for this, and calm the body enough to be able to live fully in the present, and place the trauma in the past

Capoeira training is an effective therapeutic treatment for traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and distress. Singing, moving, and playing, connecting with our bodies and getting in synch with others can reorganise our central nervous system to be more healthy and effective in managing everyday life. Treatment focuses on restoring agency, self-awareness and social engagement systems in order to provide a holistic treatment. This starts through learning to safely inhabit your body, and re-taking control over your life.


Capoeira al-Shababi focuses on the following healing techniques:

  • Movement - individual strength, coordination, flexibility, and power are all developed in training capoeira movements. These exercises help people to reconnect with the sensations in their bodies, helping them to also believe in their body's competence. Body-awareness is improved through purposeful movement and controlled breathing. Trusting the body is crucial to pulling people out of fight/flight states and healing traumatic stress. Self-awareness, anchored in the body, also develops strong self-esteem that gives children and youth a huge head start for a successful future.

  • Music - singing and playing instruments in a group creates a feeling of attunement and synchronicity with others. Rhythmicity and reciprocity among peers builds social skills, trust, teamwork and a community of support that can treat the isolation of trauma.

  • Creativity - play, curiosity, and discovery are vital elements of childhood, but trauma in children and youth creates a fear which stunts this curiosity. Playing capoeira is a theatrical and creative activity which develops a sense of agency and self-confidence, and encourages children to express and find novel ways of dealing with challenges. Capoeira cultivates motivation and curiosity through play that is essential for children and youth to develop a mature and resilient future.

Useful Resources


Manuals and Guides for Field Workers

  • World Vision, Psychological First Aid: Guide for Field Workers, WHO, Geneva (2011): click here
  • War Child Holland, Psychosocial Support in Emergencies: Critical for Syrian Children, (2013): click here 
  • Community-based Psychosocial Support, A training kit, IFRC: click here
  • IASC, Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, (2007): click here

Research on Trauma and the Body

  • The Psychosocial Impact of Capoeira for Refugee Children and Youth, C4R and University of East London, 2015, here.
  • The Body Keeps the Score; Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel Van der Kolk, MD, 2014
  • Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma, by Ann Frederick, Peter A. Levine, 1997
  • Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy, Pat Ogden, 2006
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Interventions for Trauma and Attachment, by Pat Ogden and Janina Fisher, 2015
  • Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of your Body, Peter Levine, 2008