- 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.