What We Do

The Program for Survivors of Torture rebuilds the lives of people who have been tortured, persecuted, or displaced by war. Since its inception in 1995, PSOT has provided comprehensive medical and mental health care, as well as social and legal services to more than 3,500 survivors and their family members from more than 100 countries.

The Program has developed an international reputation for excellence in our clinical, educational, and research activities, and has contributed knowledge and testimony to global efforts to end torture.

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
  • shocked
  • cut
  • suspended in painful positions
  • deprived of food and water for extended periods
  • burned
  • suffocated
  • 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. 

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.

How do clients find out about your program?

Clients are referred to the 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. 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, 46% are West African, 18% Central African, 20% Central and East Asion, 5% Eastern European, 3% South and Central American, and 8% other. 66% of new clients are 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.