Point of View

Point of View

Immigration and Trauma: How Can Therapists Help?

By Ryan Howes

September/October 2019

Unrelenting coverage of the children and families who’ve fled violence and poverty in their home countries—only to be met in many cases with shocking conditions in detention centers along our southern border—has made the plight of immigrants and refugees to America unavoidable. And for those who are recent or first-generation immigrants, the churning public debate about who belongs in this country can exacerbate the weighty psychological toll of immigration itself. What traumas have they experienced before crossing into the United States? How do they adjust to being here? And where can they turn for help?

Enter Rosa Maria Bramble, a clinical social worker, adjunct lecturer at the Columbia School of Social Work, and an immigrant herself. Bramble specializes in the impact of traumatic events on immigrants and refugees, providing psychosocial evaluations for immigration hearings and treating traumatized asylum seekers. She also speaks and writes about these issues and has a chapter on immigrants in the second edition of the bestseller The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. We spoke recently about her life, work, and the vital importance of mental health services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

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Ryan Howes: How did you get interested in immigration issues?

Rosa Maria Bramble: Well, I’m an immigrant myself. I came from Venezuela when I was seven. That’s certainly shaped my way of approaching social work…

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