The Ukrainian Psychosomatic Medicine Association: Role of Professional Organization During the War

The Ukrainian Psychosomatic Medicine Association (UPMA) is a professional scientific organization in the field of healthcare that unites specialists with different profiles who work in the field of psychosomatic medicine throughout Ukraine. UPMA was created in 2016 on the initiative of the employees of the Department of Medical Psychology, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy of the Bogomolets National Medical University. UPMA was included in the European Association of Psychosomatic Medicine (EAPM) as a national member from Ukraine in 2021. Today, UPMA has more than 120 members, including medical psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, general practitioners, neurologists, therapists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, oncologists, and doctors of other specialities, as well as scientists who have a practical or academic interest in psychosomatic medicine.

The goal of UPMA is to implement a multidisciplinary approach in medicine, to carry out educational work for the population and educational work for health workers. This short communication provides information on the activities of UPMA during the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.

Starting from 2017, UPMA holds yearly international scientific and practical conferences, such as “Psychosomatic Medicine: Science and Practice”, and congresses, such as “Psychosomatic Medicine of the 21st Century: Realities and Prospects” once in two years. Those events are focused on current issues and challenges experienced by the Ukrainian healthcare system.

In 2022, despite the full-scale invasion of Russia in Ukraine in 2022, almost five thousand specialists joined the spring conference (25-26 May 2022), mainly psychiatrists, neurologists, general practitioners, psychologists, as well as specialists in other medical specialties. The topics discussed at the conference corresponded with current demands. Provision of crisis assistance during the war was discussed; the topics of prevention and treatment of stress-related disorders were raised, and approaches to scaling up assistance were highlighted.

Topics covered during the conference:

  • Current issues of psychosomatic medicine in a situation of prolongued stress.
  • Faces and phases of traumatic stress in an ongoing war.
  • Mental health care under the condition of martial law.
  • Psychosocial support to internally and forcibly displaced persons.
  • Loss and grief, diagnostic issues, trajectories, and strategies of care.
  • Resilience during the war: concept and manifestations, strategies for development and strengthening.
  • The ongoing pandemic: the impact of COVID-19 on mental health.
  • A multidisciplinary approach to the provision of mental health support for patients with comorbid mental and somatic disorders.

UPMA has initiated an online educational project, Mental Disorders and Work With Psychotrauma During the War. Leading Ukrainian and foreign experts in traumatic stress (Arieh Shalev, Joseph Zohar, Eric Vermetten, Oleg Chaban, Nataliya Maruta, Olena Khaustva) share their experience and best practices with mental health care workers in Ukraine. Ten pre-recorded expert lectures and live Q&A sessions were broadcasted in 2023. Most pressing issues during the discussion were the difference in mental health support depending on the time after exposure to the traumatic event and proximity to the war contact line.

The members of UPMA are actively engaged in scientific activities. In cooperation with the Department of Clinical Psychology at Utrecht University (the Netherlands), the Phoenix‘ grief research project is being implemented. The goal of the Phoenix’ project is to study risk factors and protective factors of the prolonged grief disorder during the war in Ukraine among those who have lost a loved one, starting from 24.02.2022.

The Department of Medical Psychology, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy of the Bogomolets National Medical University quarterly publishes an electronic, peer-reviewed, scientific open-access journal, “Psychosomatic Medicine and General Practice,” in cooperation with UPMA The journal publishes original research, reviews, and clinical cases that address all aspects of diagnosis and treatment of both somatic (physical) diseases and mental disorders.

The UPMA mission since the beginning of the war in Ukraine has been to disseminate information in order to prevent the negative consequences of the impact of distress on mental well-being and somatic health and explore methods of psychosocial support. Future steps towards achieving its goals would be to share the expertise obtained with the international community.


Written by Oleg Chaban1,2, Olena Khaustova1,2, Iryna Frankova1,2,3,4 , Iryna Leshchuk1,2

1 Bogomolets National Medical University, Kyiv, Ukraine;
2 Ukrainian Psychosomatic Medicine Association, Kyiv, Ukraine;
3 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands;
4 ARQ/Centrum 45, Oegstgeest, The Netherlands;