Psychological evaluation of asylum seekers as a therapeutic process.Torture. 2007; 17(2):79-87.T
Torture survivors are often reluctant to tell their stories. They typically make every effort to forget this painful, traumatic experience. Often they do not share with family, friends or healthcare professionals the fact that they have been beaten, raped or subjected to electrical shocks and other terrors. Talking means retrieving memories, triggering the feelings and emotions that accompanied the torture itself. Furthermore, refugee torture survivors feel that people won't understand or believe their experiences. However, survivors who escape their country may need to reveal their torture experience as they apply for asylum in the host country. When they prepare for the asylum process, it may well be the first time that they talk about the torture. Mental health professionals are often called upon to evaluate survivors and prepare affidavits for the asylum process, documenting the effects of torture. This creates a unique and priviliged opportunity to help survivors to address the devastating consequences of torture. Winning asylum is essential to recovery for a torture survivor in a country of refuge. Psychological evaluations of the consequences of torture can present information and evidence to asylum adjudicators which significantly increases understanding of the survivors' background and experiences as well as their manner of self-presentation in the courtroom or interview. They can empower the torture survivor to present his/her experiences more fully and confidently. Even apart from winning asylum, the process of the evaluation has many potential benefits for the survivor's emotional well-being. This includes helping the survivor understand the necessity of telling the story, illuminating the often poorly perceived link between current emotional suffering and past torture, facilitating the development of cognitive and emotional control, and healing the wounds of mistrust, humiliation, marginalization and fear.