Success Stories

Its so gratifying when I hear from lawyers that my evaluations helped their clients to obtain their legal status.  Here’s an email I received from a lawyer last week:

XXX (you did the psychological exam for his wife, YYY– re hardship) was granted adjustment of status and the 212(h) waiver on Friday morning. The psychological exam really helped (the Trial Attorney mentioned it – the government did not oppose the hardship after looking at all of the documentation), so thank you. He’s been trying to get his green card since 1998 (!) and the case has been on the Judge’s docket for six years. They were both so happy and I’m sure feel somewhat more free without this immigration issue hanging over their heads. I want to always try to keep you updated about the outcomes of the cases and there have been a lot of good ones lately – and the psych exams are always such a help! So, thanks again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Human Trafficking (T visas)

Another type of evaluation I often perform are human trafficking assessments (T Visas).  In conducting these evaluations, I hear stories of people who were lured to the United States with promises of a brighter future and lucrative job opportunities.  However, once they arrive in the United States, they are essentially enslaved.  New to the United States and usually with very limited English and no knowledge of the geographic area or resources available to them, these undocumented immigrants are afraid to try to escape their situation.

Most recently I have done several evaluations for people brought to the U.S. as “babysitters”.  They are confined to the home, not paid and in many instances they are not even provided the basic necessities like sufficient food, a bed to sleep on or a change of clothing.  They are often verbally abused and belittled.  In some cases the immigrant also faces physical or sexual abuse.

The emotional impact of such treatment is usually substantial.  These clients have come to the U.S, because in their country of origin they were impoverished and without opportunities.  They were willing to endure the separation from their loved ones and the life they understood in the hope of achieving financial stability.  To then be confined and controlled, often over years of time, unpaid or minimally paid, these victims frequently internalize a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.  They feel isolated and alone, and usually fall into a state of depression and despair.

My evaluations help to prove the significant long-term emotional impact these clients endure.  Although the clients I meet with have escaped from their confinement, many live with chronic depression and low self-esteem.  With the support of my clinical evaluation to add strength to their legal case, these clients hope for better prospects in the U.S. if and when they obtain their documentation.  This is often the one hope that keeps them going, striving for a future where they have the opportunity to be paid for honest work.

Posted in types of evaluations | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tahiri Justice Center

Another great community resource for immigrants is the Tahiri Justice Center.

Here’s the link:

From their website:

The Tahirih Justice Center is an innovative, efficient, and strategic nonprofit organization that works to protect immigrant women and girls from gender-based violence through legal services, advocacy, and public education programs.

I have done some pro bono and low-fee work for Tahhiri and find them to be extremely professional and caring in their work with clients.

Posted in community resources | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

NY Times Article on depression in developing nations

I wanted to share this interesting article about the prevalence of depression in countries where poverty is rampant and often there is political strife.  Not surprising that depression rates are high when people are impoverished, feel they have no way out and may be unable to express thier views for fear of govenment persecution.  I see this routinely in the clients I meet with.

Posted in articles | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma

If you are working with trauma survivors, Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma is an excellent resource for support services.

From their website:

In your country, did you ever experience violence or fear for your life because
of your political activities, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation?

Were you ever detained, arrested, or jailed because you were involved in movements for democratic reform, human rights, or social justice?

Was anyone in your family threatened because of your beliefs or actions?

Were you or a family member ever hurt physically or emotionally by members of the government, military, militias, police, or political groups?

Are you seeking asylum in the United States because of persecution in your country?

You are not alone.

Since our beginning in 1994, ASTT staff has worked with over 1,000 clients from 38 countries. ASTT works with people who suffered torture or trauma in their home countries. ASTT can help you find legal help, housing, medical care, food, English classes, and other resources. We can help you regain a sense of safety, trust, and empowerment through working with a case manager or counselor in a caring, supportive environment. For more information about our services and how we can help you, please contact Maria at 410-464-9006 or

Posted in community resources | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CAIR Coalition

For anyone interested in immigration rights issues, check out the Capital Area Immigration Rights Coalition (CAIR Coalition).  The website is:

With links to recent articles and an excellent and informative listserv, this group creates a community for people working for and with immigrants.

For example, this recent article about immigrant detention centers.

I am grateful to be a member of this coalition, to feel linked to others working to help immigrants and part of a larger community.

Posted in community resources | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What to look for in a clinical evaluator for an immigration case:

  • Look for a therapist (Licensed Clinical Social Worker or Licensed Clinical Psychologist) who has experience  doing clinical evaluations specifically for immigration purposes.
  • A good evaluator will be able to create an open and sharing environment for the client.  Sometimes this is the first time (or close to the first time) the client has ever discussed these difficult life issues or events, so having an empathic clinician is critical.
  • The therapist should be able to convey to the client understanding and validation of their feelings and experience, normalizing the responses the client has had to what may be a highly traumatic event.
  • Choose a clinician who has knowledge of community-based organizations that can provide low-fee mental health services on an ongoing basis for clients.  Referrals for services are an important part of follow-up to an evaluation.
  • As part of a thorough evaluation, it may come out that other traumas – beyond the specific trauma related to the immigration case – may be revealed.  There are times when the client enters into their immigration situation with pre-existing life situations that cause them to be particularly vulnerable emotionally.  A savvy clinician will be able to assess for any pre-existing mental health conditions.
  • Often the client will admit that it was a relief to discuss their life with someone who is open and understanding and there is a feeling of catharsis in being able to share their burden – this is an indication of a strong clinician.
  • Strong writing skills are critical.  Its one thing to be able to be empathic and and be able to make a clinical diagnosis, but it is critical to be able to document in writing the client’s situation: clearly, concisely and professionally.
  • The clinician should have excellent verbal skills in case testimony in court is needed.
  • Look for a clinician who works well with attorneys, not just clients.  Its important that the therapist have at least a basic understanding of immigration law and take into consideration the particulars of the case.
Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How does a clinical evaluation strengthen an immigration case?

There are many ways in which a psychosocial evaluation can strengthen a client’s asylum or other type of immigration case. Listed below are a few:

  • Corroboration of a client’s story by an outside source
  • Provide detailed explanation of a client’s mental and emotional state that can help to explain any unusual behaviors in court such as withdrawal.
  • Helping to establish the client as a reliable source of information by providing expert assessment of their credibility.
  • Explanation of any inconsistencies in the client’s story – for example, victims of crimes sometimes block out the event and have great difficulty recalling details related to the event, which can make the client seem unreliable.  Shame can also play a factor, as sometimes a client does not want to admit to what has happened to them.
  • Humanize the people involved in the case by providing a more personal account of the client’s life and impacts on themselves and their family members if client is deported.
  • In talking with the therapist about their situation, the client can become more open to speaking in court and to other professionals involved in their case.
  • Because of the clinician’s expertise in talking to clients about highly personal life events , the therapist is sometimes able to ascertain information from a client that the client did not reveal to the attorney.
Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why have your evaluation completed by a clinical social worker??

In this article about types of clinical evaluations that are often used to support immigration cases ( it is noted that many of the tests used by clinical psychologists in their evaluations with immigrants are not appropriate with this diverse population, and the tests are therefore of limited or no use. The author indicates that because the tests do not account for diversity in cultural backgrounds, they cannot be reliably used for immigration evaluations.

Because clinical psychologists use testing in their evaluations, the time for the evaluation is significantly lengthened and therefore the cost of the evaluation is substantially higher.

Inherent in our training as social workers is the idea that all people should be able to have access to services that will support them. In offering a reduced, sliding-scale fee for my reports, I open the door to people who would not have been able to previously afford these evaluations.  I believe that not just wealthy clients should have access to high quality legal and mental health services

In addition to offering a reduced price for an evaluation, I also offer a payment plan.  This has meant that I have successfully completed evaluations with clients who would not have been able to afford this much needed service.

Finally, social workers are trained to look at a person as part of a larger community, family and social network, and that any complete evaluation will focus on the impact of outside influences on the individual, and how the person fits into their environment.  This holistic view provides for a more expansive understanding of a person’s functioning rather than looking more specifically on diagnostic criteria.  Although a diagnosis is often a piece of the evaluation, providing an overall picture of a person in light of where they fit in their larger world is the job of a successful psychosocial evaluation.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care

One of the community agencies I most commonly refer clients to is Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care.  With several DC locations as well as a clinic in Silver Spring and Adelphi, Maryland, Mary’s Center offers an array of bilingual/Spanish services that include medical, dental, mental health and community-based support.   These services can be accessed even without health insurance and are often offered for no or low-fee.  Support services include an array of community, home-based and educational services along with individual therapy.

Posted in community resources | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment