How do QPASTT Counsellor/Advocates support people seeking asylum?
Hear from Jeanne, a Counsellor/Advocate in our Moringa team supporting people seeking asylum.
“Our approach to counselling is person-centred, which means our clients have choice and control over the therapeutic goals and interventions we work through in sessions. This is vital for people seeking asylum because they often feel powerless.
Being in the detention system can take away a person’s sense of dignity, identity, autonomy and connection. Our clients express their feelings of being segregated and discriminated against, even of feeling worthless. We aim to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for people to speak about their experiences before and after arriving in Australia. We can provide emotional support and validation which can help people gain back a sense of self-esteem and control, even though their asylum status remains the same. Having someone who they can trust and talk to about the injustices they are experiencing can be very therapeutic.
We provide psychoeducation, particularly around the symptoms and impact of trauma. We see people presenting with sleep issues, nightmares, flashbacks, excessive worries, problems with memory and concentration and suicidal thoughts. Understanding these may be trauma reactions rather than unexplained symptoms can be helpful for people.
On the other hand, it’s important not to assume all symptoms are coming from trauma, especially when people are struggling to have their basic needs met. If I can support someone to access emergency relief so they can buy food, that might help reduce their immediate stress.
In my work, I can offer a range of different modalities. I use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which can help people find alternative ways of thinking even though their external circumstances remain the same. I also use a strengths-based approach, supporting a client to draw on their inner resources and resilience to develop coping strategies that work for them. I also use mindfulness and relaxation. One client said our relaxation exercises gave her the courage to face the day. She’s now doing yoga and says she’s able to cope with stress.
Doing this work is a passion for me. As someone with lived experience, who speaks five languages, it’s rewarding when I can use my skills to support others. I was supporting a client who runs a business and is able to support herself. Her visa was about to expire, which meant she would lose her work rights and her business. I was able to support her through advocacy with a legal service provider and she was able to get her visa renewed. The advocacy component of our counselling role makes a real difference to people’s lives.”