How do psychologists work with human rights abuse victims?


International organizations can offer specialized training for psychologists. HealthRight International (formerly Doctors of the World-USA) is a global health and human rights organization working to build lasting access to health for excluded communities. HealthRight's Human Rights Clinic project, based in New York, works in 10 states to train and deploy volunteer physicians and mental health professionals to assist survivors of torture seeking asylum in the U.S. Other organizations, like the Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Program, also host workshops in forensic evaluation of torture survivors.

In the Field

Helping Victims of Forced Migration

Each year thousands of survivors of torture and other persecution who seek safety in the U.S. go through the complex and restrictive U.S. immigration process. They often have nothing more than their own words to substantiate their suffering, but some of the most compelling evidence they have — physical and psychological experiences of torture — can be documented by a health professional to make the difference between safety in the U.S. or forcible return to countries of persecution. 

Volunteer psychologists with human rights organizations regularly provide the following services: 

  • Clinical examinations for asylum seekers.
  • Documentation of abuse. 
  • Provide critical testimony in asylum proceedings. 
  • Survivor referrals for follow-up medical care, mental health care, community support and social services.  
Support for Lesbian Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Populations

LGBT people and their human rights concerns have become increasingly visible around the world. As awareness grows and as more people come out by choice or are outed by others, reactions to these populations play out in ways both favorable and appalling. 

Graduate students, clinicians, forensic psychologists and other scientists work with displaced, escaping or physically and psychologically victimized LGBT people. Learn more about the role of psychology when LGBT people face forced migration or torture.