Our Philosophy and Approach
Working as a multidisciplinary team enables us to offer clients comprehensive services, continuity of care, and a diversity of perspectives. We have found that the medical, mental health, social and legal difficulties clients face are typically interrelated. For example, a client experiencing chronic physical pain that is organic in nature as a result of his or her torture (a medical problem) may be constantly reminded of their abuse and unable to focus on anything other than traumatic memories (a mental health problem.) A client facing homelessness (a social problem) may experience stronger feelings of hopelessness and despair and an increase in suicidal ideation (a mental health problem). 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.
When individuals are accepted into the program, treatment plans are developed based on their stated needs, as well as based on clinical assessment of their functioning. For example, some individuals come to the program without knowledge or familiarity with Western notions of psychotherapy. For these clients, the choice of group therapy is a more comfortable setting for addressing their psychological stress. Similarly, in individual therapy, therapists at the Bellevue Program are sensitive to addressing the clients’ stated priorities – even if those are likely to encompass concrete issues such as housing, asylum, and work status – rather than having an “agenda” of revisiting traumatic events. There are also clients who are clear that they are not seeking psychotherapy of any kind. Operating from a client-centered philosophy, we view the client’s own assessment of their needs as paramount to planning effective care. This diverse team approach to the treatment of torture survivors and traumatized refugees can remain effective as long as the team members hold certain principles in common. Service providers at PSOT respect the sanctity of each human being’s mind, body, and spirit. We share a sincere commitment to helping people recover from human rights abuses in a way that is empowering and sustainable. We work in a context of mutual respect and emphasize open communication among disciplines. We advocate the promotion of human rights issues, and share our insights and experiences through professional trainings, program publications, and other public exchanges.