AAT staff members went to a training provided by Bangkok Refugee Center (BRC) about initial psychosocial support to asylum seekers and refugees. The day was broken down into several sessions, including:
- initial psychological symptoms, warning signs and screening tools
- effective communication skills and counseling techniques
- practicing counseling skills and techniques
- initial psychosocial support when working with traumatized individuals
- referral resources
Migrants and refugees face stressors which can take place at various stages of the migration process: (1) pre-migration; (2) migration travel and transit; (3) post-migration; and (4) integration and settlement. It was particularly useful to learn more about trauma-informed care for clients and also self-care for humanitarian workers. Professionals in the human rights field are particularly susceptible to vicarious (secondary) trauma, which is a form of trauma that’s experienced indirectly by hearing details or witnessing the aftermath of a traumatic experience by another person. Essentially, it’s a process of change resulting from empathetic engagement with trauma survivors. BRC taught us about the following types of self-care: social, physical, mental, practical, emotional, and spiritual.
While the training was helpful, I think it’s also important to remember that legal advisors are *NOT counselors, and their roles are different. While it’s necessary to know how to practice trauma-informed care, clients also need to be referred to the right counseling resources. The following are some of the ways that I practice trauma-informed care when working with AAT clients:
- being transparent with clients about the legal process, my role, others’ roles in the process, and what can happen
- explaining the nature of a meeting or interview and letting them know what I am doing
- checking in with clients and giving them the chance to express any concerns/questions
- verbally validating any feelings they express to me; the importance of active listening
- being careful with my wording in order to prevent re-traumatization
- being aware of the client’s body language
Throughout the month of August, I conducted around 6 legal clinics for Urdu, Somali, and Burmese-speaking communities. All provided information about long-term legal solutions: resettlement, family reunification, humanitarian visa, and available private sponsorship programs in Canada, Australia, and the US. The information sessions for Burmese clients also focused specifically on the status of Myanmar refugees in Thailand, updates and other information from UNHCR, and the information of service providers here in Thailand for medical assistance, financial support, etc.
Even though work has been really busy, I’ve been having so much fun exploring Bangkok when I have the time. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve gone bike riding in Chatuchak Park, shopping at Chatuchak Market (on a cool night, phew), and went to the dragon temple (Wat Samphran).
Wat Samphran is located in Amphoe Sam Phran in Nakhon Pathom Province. It is about an hour from Bangkok city center. Although there’s much to see in the area, the highlight is the pink building with a large dragon that envelops it. The structure is 80m in height in total, corresponding to the Buddha’s final age. The 17 floors signify heavenly Brahma’s realms that one reaches in the afterlife, based on monastic achievement and karma accumulation. The dragon that surrounds the building from bottom to the top symbolizes a human’s journey from suffering to happiness, symbolically circling the hell and the heavens.
It was actually pretty quick to climb up to the top of the building, maybe around 5 minutes or so. The view from the top was beautiful. Once we reached there, my friends and I each made a wish, then walked around the circular rooftop three times before touching the dragon’s beard and then making a donation. One of my friends was actually coming back to Wat Samphran to pay her respects because her previous wish had been granted – she got a visa to come to the US! I definitely consider myself a spiritual person, and I felt surrounded by lots of spiritual energy this day.
I was a bit sick for the past week or so, but am finally feeling better. I think my body just really needed to rest.
Also, I’m so excited because I’m headed to Korea next week! I will be there for about a week and will meet up with my ex-work wifey from NYC. I can’t wait to see her and explore Korea.