Workshop #1: Cultural and Contextual Considerations for Clinicians

Sara Buckingham, Ph.D., and Issa Spatrisano, M.Ed., co-led WARM’s first workshop. The workshop was free, co-sponsored by Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services (RAIS), the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), and the Alaska Psychological Association (AK-PA). All attendees were eligible to receive seven continuing education credits!

The goal of the training was to provide foundational knowledge in mental health services for refugees. In the first part of the workshop, Ms. Spatrisano described diverse migration pathways and differentiated refugee resettlement from asylum and immigration, with a particular focus on refugees’ pre-flight, flight, displacement, and resettlement experiences. Then, she described resettlement in the Anchorage area and the resources refugees may access. In the second portion of the workshop, Dr. Buckingham asked workshop attendees to consider the many stressors associated with refugees’ experiences – including torture and trauma, displacement-related challenges, and resettlement-related challenges – and how they may lead to or exacerbate common mental health concerns among refugee clients. Dr. Buckingham also discussed the many strengths refugees draw upon across their contexts to support their mental health. Dr. Buckingham described and modeled specific culturally-responsive, evidence-based psychotherapy approaches for refugee clients that workshop attendees practiced. Finally, Dr. Buckingham highlighted a number of practical considerations relevant to mental health treatment with refugee clients, including interpretation, mental health literacy, multidisciplinary treatment teams, and provider vicarious trauma and self-care.

Despite the poor weather that closed the venue the day before, WARM’s first workshop had a great turnout! People around Alaska, including Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, and even as far as Fairbanks traveled to attend the workshop. Licensed psychologists, therapists, counselors, social workers, post-docs, interns, and graduate students were all in attendance. Self-report measures indicated that attendees gained knowledge in mental health care with refugees and perceived fewer barriers to providing mental health care to refugees after the training. Attendees shared that they wanted to learn more, so the WARM is working to secure grant funding to provide more trainings to our community. Stay tuned!