AAMFT Talk

AAMFT Conference Workshop

Refugee Families: Ethical, Clinical and Training Practices



AAMFT 2008 Abstract Summary
Appreciating the experience of families displaced to the U.S. by war and violence in their home countries is an ethical imperative for any working clinician today. In this presentation, we describe the methods by which we perform and enhance trainees’ abilities to conduct competent clinical work with refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of gross humanitarian violations.
Abstract
As the demographics of our clients change, family therapists face many opportunities for growth as practitioners. In particular, work with a growing population of families displaced to the U.S. by war and violence in their home countries can raise our awareness of global issues inherent to the nature of clinical work—as it places us in direct contact with people who have faced gross human rights violations, raises the ethical bar, and brings renewed questions to what it means to be a therapist in the world today. Refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced persons often routinely come to the attention of social service professionals in the U.S.; however, many clinicians do not understand the context in which families become refugees, nor realize how often the refugees or immigrants they work with may also be survivors of war and political torture. Understanding these families’ experiences dictates the need for family therapy clinicians to broaden our understandings of the experience of persons displaced from their country due to war, and both learn and practice the most effective ways to work with this population.
The presentation will give an overview of current knowledge and identified best practices in work with refugees and asylee families. We will identify evidence-based practices of work with this population, outline clinically effective models based on present research and best clinical practices, and discuss the complex self-of-the-therapist ethical and moral issues raised. Additionally, the presenters will expand on traditional notions of cultural competency and illustrate the methods by which we address, enhance, and challenge our clinical practice in this area. We will conclude the presentation with a discussion of the recent research on resilience in clinical work with this population.


Session Narrative
In this presentation we will discuss the ethical, clinical, and training practices we use to develop clinicians’ understandings of the experience of refugee families and individuals displaced by war and torture. Using powerpoint slides, we will begin the presentation with an overview of current knowledge and facts about the identity and circumstances of and the differences among refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers, the U.N. definition of torture, and information about where and how resettlement of refugee/asylum seeker families works in the U.S. today.
We will then focus the main body of the presentation on the identified best practices in work with survivors of war and political torture, with special emphasis on two areas:
1. Relational ethics involved in both the personal and conceptual practices of work with this population;
2. Models of resilience and clinical work that is informed by the tenets of open-ended inquiry.