What Counselors Need to Know about Immigration
For the September blog, Raven and Marcella interviewed Jose “Joey” Tapia-Fuselier, Jr., about the issue of immigration and how it may show up in therapy for clients. Joey is a licensed professional counselor and current ACES Graduate Student Representative.
Question: What are some potential barriers that folks may experience as a result of the country’s current immigration policies and practices?
Joey:In considering the impact and results of our country’s immigration policies and practices, we must consider children and their role in the immigration system. As we have seen, many families have been separated, which results in traumatic experiences for children and the families. Additionally, many children are too young to understand what’s happening and are unaware of when (or if) they will be reunited with their loved ones. For families dealing with the immigration system, we must be mindful of feelings of amplified fear as a result of recent events. Further, the clinician’s own understanding of immigration policies may present another barrier for clients. As clinicians, it is our duty to do our part and research how our clients may be impacted by their legal status. From a mental health standpoint, symptoms of increased anxiety, depression, and fears of leaving their home, are important to put into context. Without an understanding of the client’s experience, we can create more barriers to treatment when their symptomology may reflect their daily experience of not having a legal status or being in a mixed status family.
Question: What can counselors do to better understand the lived experiences of folks who may be impacted by the country’s immigration policies?
Joey:As mentioned above, we must do our homework! Even if you don’t identify with the cultural identity of the clients you serve, this does not excuse you from doing your research. Many of us hold privileges as folks who were born in this country, which requires further thought and critical reflection. It is imperative that counselors explore the impact of our own privileged identities, especially when in the room with an undocumented client. As clinicians, we must consider exploring these issues within the therapeutic relationship, as we may provide the only space where clients feel safe enough to explore these issues. Broaching conversations about diversity further allows clients to explore themselves and their fears.
Question: What can counselor educators do to better equip counselors-in-training to deal with these important issues?
Joey:Love this question! Educate, educate, and educate! Counselor educators hold the unique privilege of being able to help shape the minds of counselors-in-training, in viewing political issues as a human issue for clients. Counselor educators can create experiences in the classroom to explore students’ beliefs and attitudes towards undocumented people, people of Color, and linguistically diverse clients. Creating these intentional experiences provides students with multiple methods to reflect and explore their own understanding of how policies can impact the clients we will serve. Counselor educators should also be knowledgeable about organizations and other advocacy efforts (e.g., RAICES; Undocumedia; ACLU), to encourage students to challenge the systems that oppress clients. Building these conversations and activities in every classroom further enriches students’ abilities to explore with a felt confidence that they CAN do this work. Lastly, hosting workshops or specific sessions for students with community members to learn about the immigration system and barriers faced by individuals trying to navigate a complex system and what services may benefit the clients they may serve.
We sincerely appreciate Joey sharing his knowledge with us related to this very important issue in our society.