Story by CVT volunteer Patricia Busse
Collaboration is a key part of the success of the Program for Survivors of Torture and Severe Trauma in Falls Church, VA.
Having case managers, psychiatrists and an attorney all working under one roof makes scheduling simpler and transportation more convenient for clients, said Co-coordinator and Mental Health Therapist Saara Amri, but for some clients, the benefit runs even deeper.
Co-coordinator and Mental Health Therapist Sabine Fajon remembers a time when a woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo was meeting with the organization’s immigration attorney about an asylum case. At first, it seemed like her case was weak based on the information she had given to the lawyer. But because the attorney worked together with Fajon, the woman’s therapist, they were able to determine that the client was afraid to tell her story to the lawyer, and wasn’t comfortable with her translator. Fajon assisted by explaining the lawyer’s role and stepping in to translate, and the woman’s case manager got involved, too.
“Actually, she had a very strong case and she was granted asylum at the interview stage,” Fajon said. “That was a really big success, and she is now seeking employment.”
The emphasis on collaboration extends beyond the program’s walls, too.
This past June the program held its second annual conference for area organizations that provide services for victims of torture and trauma. Staff members at the program are also working on research with Howard University and George Washington University to evaluate the program’s current outcomes and how to improve them further. Fajon and Amri have also presented on topics related to refugees and torture survivors—like how dissociative symptoms can affect court testimony—in various statewide and national forums.
“We realize that we’re doing some good things, and we want to be able to share that with other programs,” Amri said. “We value learning about the work they do, and we want to make a contribution as well.”
The Program for Survivors of Torture and Severe Trauma is part of the Northern Virginia Family Service, which is based in Oakton, VA.