What We Do
What services do you provide?
- Mental Health
- Social Services
- Legal Advocacy
(For more detailed information please consult "Direct Client Services")
What is your therapeutic approach?
Our Program operates from the premise that our clients are individuals with resources and assets that helped them survive the traumatic events that they experienced and that can be mobilized to help them as they rebuild their lives in the United States. If given support and relief from immediate stressors, most survivors can mobilize their inherent capacities for adjusting, healing and coping.
What have clients undergone in their home countries that they are seeking asylum in the U.S.?
Our Program’s clients have suffered numerous forms of abuse in their countries of origin including, but not limited to:
- being beaten
- suspended in painful positions
- deprived of food and water for extended periods
- sexually assaulted
- subjected to mock executions
- forced to witness the torture and murder of others including family members.
Program clients have been targeted for a variety of reasons including their:
- peaceful political or social activities
- ethnicity or religion
- sexual orientation.
What is torture?
Among human rights abuses, torture is one of the most traumatic and destructive human experiences. The purpose of torture, through the infliction of severe physical or mental suffering, is to break the will of the victim and ultimately to destroy his or her humanity.
Torture can have devastating consequences for the victim's physical and mental well-being. Physical symptoms can range from joint and muscle pain to neurological damage. Psychological consequences of torture can include depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Please also consult the UN Definition of Torture and the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Tokyo.
What is war trauma?
Someone, who has been traumatized through the violation of their human rights, organized violence, armed conflict, or low intensity war, regardless of whether they were a combatant or non-combatant, is a victim of war trauma.
What are the criteria for admission to our program? Who is admitted into the program?
- We use the definition of torture pursuant to the UN Convention Against Torture as our standard for acceptance, as well as a qualitative evaluation of war/refugee trauma.
What types of legal assistance do you provide?
- Clients are strongly encouraged to submit an asylum application before they have been in the United States for one year
- We refer many of our clients to non-profit organizations, such as Human Rights First, HIAS and Catholic Charities, to be considered for possible pro bono representation.
- Clients with general questions about the legal process, or in need of assistance filling out immigration applications are referred to our Social/Legal Services Coordinator who is an experienced paralegal. The Coordinator also acts as a liaison between the asylum attorney and the health provider.
- When appropriate, Program clinicians provide medical and psychological reports or summaries for clients seeking asylum, and often testify on their behalf. This documentation from health professionals can be crucial in allowing judges to accurately evaluate the merits of a survivor’s claim.
What makes you unique?
We are the only comprehensive torture treatment center in the New York City. However, PSOT is a member of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP) and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).
Information on NCTTP, IRCT and their members can be found at: ncttp.westside.com/wsContent and www.irct.org respectively. For more information about other torture treatment centers in the U.S. please also visit the "Resources" section of our website.
Is your staff multi-lingual?
Our staff speaks French, Spanish, Italian, Bulgarian, Hebrew, Wolof, Krio, Tibetan, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Nepalese, and Vietnamese, Bengali and Urdu – and is culturally diverse. Several have lived and worked overseas, including in Africa, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.
How long does treatment last?
- Intensive treatment lasts for 6-18 months
- Roughly 18 months after intake, many clients have obtained asylum and work authorization, learned basic English and literacy skills, and regained the psychological and physical health necessary to successfully rebuild independent lives here in the U.S.
Clients who have refugee status and those granted asylum are referred whenever possible to more mainstream providers of these services.
The Program has an open door policy for clients to contact us if further needs emerge.
- Clients discharged from the Program are offered a client summary of care provided and recommendations for follow up. Cases are reviewed regularly to evaluate whether clients are still accessing services, and cases are closed if they have not received services in the past 12 months.
How do clients find out about your program?
Clients are referred to our Program through word of mouth, within their communities and immigrant community groups, resettlement agencies, human rights organizations, and other social, medical and legal service providers, including many who received training from Program staff. The Program also receives referrals from asylum officers and DHS immigration detention facilities in the New York area.
What is the demographic breakdown of your clients?
Among our new clients, 43% are West African, 23% East Asian, 15% Central African, 4% Eastern European, 4 % South and Central American, 3% from the Former Soviet Union, 1.4 % Middle Eastern, and 1.3% North African. This is consistent with the Program’s historical client population. Also consistent was that 66% of new clients were male and 34% were female. Of these new clients 43% were Muslim, 24% Christian, and 28.8% Buddhist and 40.5% represented other religions. For a visual representation please consult the Our Clients section of our website.
How does your program partner with other organizations?
It is only by working in partnership with other organizations that the multiple needs of our clients can be met. We have developed long-term relationships with many service providers. For example, the program has strong ties with Nah We Yone, a community-based social service and advocacy organization for individuals from Sierra Leone and other areas of West Africa. The Program also provides mutual referrals to Songtsen, a Tibetan NGO founded by a former Program client. We also have refer our clients to Christ House, an organization supported by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York which provides temporary housing to asylum seekers.
What methods of self-care do members of the staff, trainees, interpreters, and volunteers use on a day-to-day basis?
All staff members have the opportunity to seek supervision from our clinicians. Clinical staff members have peer supervision once weekly. Clinical interns and externs have supervision following intakes with new clients, as well as at least two supervisors for individual therapy cases. Externs also meet as a group one a month. Our interpreters attend a monthly support group with our clinical Post Doctoral Fellow and volunteers are encouraged to check in with our Volunteer/Education Coordinator on a regular basis.
How long is the waiting list?
Approximately 4 months
What other places do we refer patients to if they aren't appropriate for this program?
For patients looking for evaluations:
For patients in some sort of psychological crisis or in need of immediate medical attention:
- nearest emergency room (preferably a public hospital as insurance and documentation of legal status not required
Do you only work with clients who are not from the U.S.?
Our mandate is to serve survivors of torture, primarily the asylum seeking population, who have endured human rights abuses abroad. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to receive services from a variety of local programs to which our clients do not have access.