Native Language Counseling for Survivors of Trauma

Attending to mental and emotional needs is a vital part of self-care and overall health.

For those living under extreme stress and/or processing traumatic experiences, mental health care can be a true survival issue. Often, the experiences which prompted an immigrant or refugee to flee their homeland in the first place, combined with other traumas endured enroute to or even after reaching their new home, have produced profound emotional and mental health scars which, if left unaddressed, risk derailing their adjustment in their new homeland.  

Mental health therapy can range from providing a trained, listening ear to help an immigrant understand a confusing encounter in their new homeland to helping them process an extreme trauma experienced back home. One recipient aided by such services expressed her deep gratitude for the therapy she received with the following message to her therapist. “…I thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for what you did for me to help me heal the wounds that I carried in my life and in my spirit. Thank you for helping me move on from the obstacles that I had.”

While mental health services are much-needed, unfortunately often they are not readily available to immigrants lacking “legal” documented status. This reality leaves provider organizations unable to bill an insurance company or tap an appropriate government program and sometimes even forces them to deny such services altogether. AMIS is grateful to have had the opportunity to provide support for counseling services for three individuals from Honduras, each of whom is seeking asylum, thanks to the partnership it has built with the Catholic Charities program of Lake County.  

Catholic Charities is dedicated to meeting immigrants where they are, including finding therapists who can provide counseling services in an immigrant’s native tongue. But as Sharon Shumaker and Karla Mendez, both social workers with the agency, explained to AMIS Vice-President Anne Hill, even greater efforts are needed to identify and nurture relationships with new therapists who are proficient in the many languages spoken by our new arrivals. If you are a bi-lingual therapist who would like to help out, please contact AMIS using this form.

Our thanks to Ms. Shumaker and Ms. Mendez for their assistance with this article and for providing AMIS with the opportunity to help address this critical need. 

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