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NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors

Treating Hopelessness and Helplessness in People Seeking Asylum Facing Deportation

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Prof Nicholas Procter
University of South Australia

A/Prof Mary Anne Kenny
Murdoch University, WA

Amanda Labron Johnson
Counsellor/Art Therapist, STARTTS

Asylum seekers are one of the most vulnerable groups of clients in our society. Evidence suggests that asylum seekers have much higher rates of mental health difficulties than are usually found within the general population. The process of seeking asylum in Australia places demands on this group, beyond the expected stressors faced by most refugees. These include several situations which are re-traumatising and triggering of their past trauma. For example: prolonged unsafe journeys, being in detention for an extended period of time, uncertainty about their future, and separation from family. There are additional financial difficulties and stressful, complex legal processes. In fact, the refugee determination process is regarded as one of the most stressful and challenging experiences for asylum seekers. In our experience clients present with PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief, with suicidality and feelings of helpfulness and hopelessness being prominent. In particular these symptoms are more pronounced when the asylum application has been rejected and the client is in the final stage of deportation. Professor Nicholas Procter and Associate Professor Mary Anne Kenny have extensive experience working with asylum seekers. In this Clinical Master Class, held on 1 September 2021, they discussed ways of working with this vulnerable group of clients; in particular how to hold and contain them, and together find meaning and purpose. Amanda Labron Johnson, an experienced STARTTS counsellor, illustrated STARTTS’ work via a case study of one of her clients.

View the two lectures and panel discussion by clicking on the course content below. When you are finished you can request the system send you a certificate of completion. The slide PDFs are available in the Materials tab.

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