APA Expert Summit on Immigration presenter Fred Bemak, EdD, has worked with refugees from all over the world. He offered the following "assumptions" or "to dos" for psychologists working with refugees.

  • Communicate that mental health is essential, as this is not the belief or a priority in many countries.

  • Challenge Western mental health constructs.

  • Be culturally sensitive and responsive in your interventions.

  • Empower clients, help them advocate for themselves.

  • Fight for human rights.

  • Remember that mental health is affected by poverty, oppression, discrimination, economics and racism.

  • Partner with indigenous healers.

  • Accept that mental health is often the last intervention of choice. Clients will seek help from elders and indigenous healers first.

  • More research about how to assist refugees and immigrants is needed.

For many immigrant communities, Bemak said, "Mental health doesn't have a natural place at the table. We have to teach people how to access therapy and how it works."

--R. Farberman