The role of mental health professionals in political asylum processing

J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2010;38(4):479-89.


Applying for asylum in the United States can be a strenuous process for both applicants and immigration attorneys. Mental health professionals with expertise in asylum law and refugee trauma can make important contributions to such cases. Not only can mental health professionals provide diagnostic information that may support applicants' claims, but they can evaluate how culture and mental health symptoms relate to perceived deficits in credibility or delays in asylum application. They can define mental health treatment needs and estimate the possible effects of repatriation on mental health. Mental health professionals can also provide supportive functions for clients as they prepare for testimony. Finally, in a consultative role, mental health experts can help immigration attorneys to improve their ability to elicit trauma narratives from asylum applicants safely and efficiently and to enhance their resilience in response to vicarious trauma and burnout symptoms arising from work with asylum seekers.

MeSH terms

  • Emigration and Immigration / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Humans
  • Malingering / diagnosis
  • Professional Role*
  • Psychiatric Nursing*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Refugees / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • United States