Hamm Clinic has been proud to partner with the University of Minnesota Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and the Minnesota Department of Human Services to offer behavioral health screenings for Afghan evacuee families and referrals for ongoing care at Hamm.  As a part of the MRC, evacuees have been able to complete a behavioral health screen with a therapist from Hamm Clinic while staying at a Minnesota hotel.  If the screening reveals mental health or safety needs, evacuees can access ongoing care from a culturally responsive therapist at Hamm Clinic, or obtain a referral to another community partner. We help them heal in their own way—centered on their culture, language, and individual and family needs.

Many Afghan evacuees experience significant distress due to pre- and post-migration stressors. Many of our new neighbors have experienced the stresses and traumas of war, political imprisonment and torture, fear for their safety and that of their loved ones, family separation, acculturation stress, loneliness/isolation, and grieving the loss of culture and identity. This can result in a myriad of physical and mental health concerns for which they need supportive, skilled, and effective care. A 2016 study by Quais Alemi et al. indicated that the most effective perceived treatments included social support and meaning making, and involved medication, staying busy, leisure, having a stable income, being around family and others with cultural similarities, prayer, acceptance, and the academic success of their children in the US.  

Some Hamm Clinic trainees are serving Afghan clients, and are learning how to work from a multicultural perspective, integrating culturally specific interventions to provide client-centered care.  

I love what a collaborative process it has been to bring in these aspects of my client’s worldview and culture into our work (examples: eating Afghan food together, beading together, going for a walk and talking about the differences in landscape, discussing the meaning behind her clothing/art). These conversations and cultural experiences have contributed to a richer, more meaningful connection for both of us. I think we both leave feeling more whole and alive after our time together. 

– Kaitlyn Dale, Psychology Intern

Though there have been many successes, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. For example, mental health providers’ training often doesn’t ensure a culturally responsive framework for assessment, and this can result in clients from many cultures, including Afghan clients, not having care adequately attuned to their individual needs and cultural expressions of distress. The learning for providers has been valuable and has prompted some deep reflection.  As one trainee noted, “my initial view of what it would look like to work with Afghan women was fairly overly simplistic and ran the risk being disempowering.”  Through self-reflection, challenging their own preconceptions, and learning more about the client’s culture, they were better able to perceive the many ways the client is empowered in advocating – for herself and her family – with a great degree of influence and authority.

For these families, there has been so much unexpected change in such a short amount of time. From fleeing their homes due to fear of persecution, to living for months on military bases as they waited to learn where their new home would be, to finally moving to and settling in their new cities, it is clear how much strength and determination it takes to seek safety for themselves and their families in a new country.

I love that I get to celebrate what a phenom she is.  I get to be someone telling her how amazing it is that she supports her children navigating a new school system with almost no English, how she is able to talk to relatives who fail to understand the challenges she continues to face after arriving in the US, and then sit with her in the ways she is attempting to process the past violence visited on people she loved by the Taliban.  

– Connor Molloy, Social Work Fellow

It is exciting to be able to support our new community members as they settle into living in the Twin Cities. One Afghan client told their provider that she appreciates that often they talk together, she cries, and then she feels better – an excellent example of what we mean when we say Healing Created Together.   

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