NESTT works to provide integrated psychological and legal services to survivors of torture:
Psychological Services - Connecting Cultures
Connecting Cultures is the primary mental health service component of NESTT and the only program in Vermont specifically designed to address the mental health needs of survivors of torture. It is a clinical-science specialty clinic within the Behavior Therapy and Psychotherapy Center (BTPC; a 501(c)3), in the Psychology Department at the University of Vermont. The BTPC has been successfully providing mental health services for over 35 years.
Connecting Cultures is comprised of four integrated components: community outreach, direct clinical services, clinical research, and training. Its team includes doctoral level clinical psychologists, pre-doctoral clinicians, social workers, and researchers. Connecting Cultures is able to provide high quality, evidence-based, cost-effective services by utilizing clinical psychology doctoral trainees to treat survivors of torture and trauma.
Community Outreach: Through the outreach component, clinicians directly visit the communities it serves, to continue to educate its service providers on the issues of greatest importance to the communities served and to provide services in a community setting. Some of the topics that are currently being addressed include parenting, stress management, and mental health concerns (e.g., PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression) associated with being a torture survivor.
Direct Clinical services include:
• Individual therapy for a range of clinical concerns, such as posttraumatic stress symptoms, depression, and general anxiety
• Psychological assessments for torture survivors seeking asylum status in Vermont
• Psychological assessment for general concerns
Clinical Research: Connecting Cultures seeks to improve its understanding of significant issues, such as how to identify mental health symptoms among torture survivors who might benefit most from mental health treatment, and which mental health approaches are most effective. Connecting Cultures analyzes clinically-relevant information provided by clients, with informed consent. Connecting Cultures also invited Joan Othieno, the Evaluation Research Advisor for the National Capacity Building Project, to conduct a site visit in Vermont. In this regard, we have a commitment to having an effective logic model with appropriate outcome measures for our program, including assessment of client satisfaction, knowledge and behavior change.
Training: Given that Connecting Cultures is the only program currently providing mental health services specifically designed for torture survivors, we are often approached to provide trainings and consultation to other mental health agencies. We are continuously providing trainings to interested agencies and hope to provide a statewide training in September, 2011.
Legal Services - Vermont Immigration and Asylum Advocates
Services for Asylum Seekers: As part of NESTT, VIAA provides free or low-cost professional legal assistance to survivors of torture that are in need of legal protection in the U.S. It helps clients navigate the complex and unpredictable U.S. asylum and immigration system. VIAA staff has decades of combined experience in asylum law and representing asylum cases and have been quite successful in representing these cases before the Newark Asylum Office.
Among the other services VIAA provides are:
• free or low-cost advocacy and legal services for asylum seekers
• work with immigration detainees in preparation for bond hearings
• legal assistance for immigrants around criminal issues
• logistical and legal assistance for asylum seekers transiting the U.S. for refuge in Canada
• public education and outreach
VIAA assists and represents those seeking asylum, those who may be detained in Vermont and northeastern New York jails, and helps refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants with other legal assistance. VIAA also advocates locally and nationally for more humane immigration policies and educates U.S. citizens to increase their participation in regional, national, and international refugee and immigration issues.
At VIAA, we believe in justice and fundamental fairness. We serve those with the least resources available to them, specifically those who have been persecuted or tortured or threatened with persecution, torture or death. In 2009, VIAA served 739 people from 101 countries.