About

The Intercultural Counseling Connection is a referral network of mental health professionals committed to providing culturally responsive counseling and therapeutic services for asylum seekers, refugees, and other forced migrants in the greater Baltimore area. The Connection prioritizes services for survivors of torture and conflict-related trauma who are uninsured and ineligible for Federal benefits. 

Mission

The mission of the Intercultural Counseling Connection is to foster a referral network that links asylum seeking and refugee clients in the greater Baltimore area with mental health professionals trained in providing culturally-responsive care, and to serve as a source of professional support and growth for participating therapists.

Background and Need

Between January 2012 and December 2018, Maryland became the new home of over 14,000 refugees and asylees from over 90 conflict-affected countries, including Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, El Salvador, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our area is also home to thousands of individuals who have fled persecution or torture in their home countries and are currently seeking asylum here in the United States.

Whatever their country of origin, all forced migrants have experienced displacement and loss. The few selected for resettlement in the U.S. have often spent years, even decades, in refugee camps, where insecurity and violence—including sexual and gender-based abuse—are rife. Upon arrival here, they encounter the many challenges of acculturation, which generate new pressures. 

Asylum seekers face special challenges. Survivors of targeted abuse, torture, sexual and gender-based violence and other types of harm, they must undertake the stressful and complex process of applying for legal status here. Wait times for the processing of cases can range from two to five years, leaving survivors coping with profound uncertainty about their future, and compounding the emotional and psychological effects of trauma experienced prior to arrival. Ineligible for work authorization, insurance or federal benefits during the first stages of this process, they often struggle to meet basic needs, while coping with such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, and anxiety. 

Trauma-informed mental health services can help strengthen the psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing of asylum seekers, refugees, and other forced migrants, and help them realize their hopes for new lives here in the U.S. However, access to such care is often limited due to cultural barriers, non-provision of interpretation services, and other factors. Especially limited are therapeutic resources for asylum seekers, most of whom are uninsured and lack access to Federal benefits. 

The Intercultural Counseling Connection was established to help provide culturally responsive, language-appropriate mental health services for these new members of our community. Connection services are strengths-based, informed by an understanding of refugee narratives of survival and resilience. The Connection is the only program in our area that provides trauma-informed, language-appropriate counseling at no cost for asylum seekers and other forced migrants. We do so though our growing network of dedicated and compassionate volunteer therapists, who offer pro bono services for non-insured Connection clients. Through our clinical training workshops, we help strengthen providers' skills in working with survivors of conflict-related trauma and torture, building the competencies of mental health professionals in addressing the needs of these individuals.

Providers

The Connection seeks to engage professionals across the spectrum of mental health fields, including clinical licensed social workers, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners.

Currently, the Connection network includes over 35 mental health professionals committed to providing culturally-responsive therapeutic care for refugee clients. They include clinicians who specialize in working with youth, with families, and with survivors of trafficking and sexual violence. (For more information, see Find a Mental Health Provider.)

Each network member will be asked to work with at least one Connection-referred client per year on a pro bono basis. Participating providers who accept Medical Assistance may seek Medicaid reimbursement for refugee clients with MA coverage. However, all participating therapists must be willing to see at least one Connection client per year on a pro bono basis. This helps ensure provision of vital mental health services for trauma-affected forced migrants who are uninsured and lack access to Federal benefits. Session frequency and duration are determined by the client and therapist.

In return,Connection providers benefit from access to a variety of informational resources as well as ongoing free opportunities for training, professional support and clinical consultation. Connection training workshops address such topics as the nature of pre- and post-flight trauma experiences, appropriate practices in working with survivors of conflict-related trauma and torture, and working effectively with interpreters in therapeutic settings with refugee clients. Connection counselors are supported through individual consultation and/or group supervision with our Clinical Director and Clinical Associates,  drawing from their extensive experience working with asylum seekers and survivors of torture, gender-based violence, and other types of harm. (For more information, see Get Involved.)

Statistics: Maryland Office of Refugees and Asylees.

Community-based partners

The Connection wishes to thank the following for generously supporting our work by providing space for counseling sessions and/or related activities:

Asylee Women Enterprise
http://www.asyleewomen.org

CHANA
http://chanabaltimore.org

Church of the Redeemer, Baltimore
http://www.redeemeronline.com

The Episcopal Refugee and Immigrant Center Alliance (ERICA), Baltimore
http://www.erica-baltimore.org

Goodnow Community Center
http://goodnowcommunitycenter.com/about-us.html

Immigration Outreach Service Center, Baltimore
http://www.ioscbalt.org

Mission Helpers Center, Towson
http://www.missionhelpers.org

Mount Paran Presbyterian Church, Randallstown
https://www.mtparanchurch.net/who-we-are  

New Light Lutheran Church, Dundalk
http://www.newlightdundalk.com/

The Spectrum Center for Natural Medicine, Silver Spring
http://www.healingspectrum.com

Towson Unitarian Universalist Church
http://www.towsonuuc.org

The Zion Church of the City of Baltimore
http://www.zionbaltimore.org   

To learn about the diverse services and programs they offer, please visit their websites.