Immigrants and refugees, seeking safety, leave their homes for unfamiliar destinations in search of better lives for themselves and their families. Despite considerable challenges, most immigrants and refugees in the United States lead healthy lives and contribute meaningfully to American society. Even so, adjustment to living in a new host country may be significantly affected by histories of grievous loss and violent traumatic exposures, which commonly precipitate profound emotional distress. Indeed, the prevalence of mental health conditions, especially posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, is high, particularly among refugees, a subgroup of immigrants routinely subjected to extreme traumatic experiences before, during, and after forced displacement. Promoting health in such a context means paying proper attention to these histories since emotional wellbeing is critical to overall health. Accordingly, our program aids in the social and emotional adjustment of immigrants and refugees in need. We provide mental health services with culturally-informed approaches, educate healthcare providers about caring for immigrants and refugees, and increase professional and public awareness of immigrant and refugee community needs.
Transition can be difficult, as immigrants and refugees adjust to new schools, work environments, and American culture, often with an added burden of lacking adequate resources to meet their most basic needs. Additionally, many of our clients continue to suffer from trauma that they experienced in their home countries or during migration. We provide mental health services with culturally sensitive approaches to aid the stability, social, and emotional adjustment of immigrants and refugees. Our therapists aim to help those in distress to recover a sense of individual well-being and to improve relationships among family members. Our psychiatrists assist with diagnostic evaluation, offer judicious prescription of psychiatric medication when indicated, and sometimes conduct therapy themselves. Often, refugees are unaware of the services available to help them get settled. We offer case management services, helping immigrant and refugee clients navigate and access complex healthcare and social services systems. While some of our providers have facility with certain languages, we most often rely on the help of our pool of trained interpreters to aid in communication with our clients.
We provide interprofessional and interdepartmental teaching in immigrant and refugee mental health at CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Our students include psychiatry trainees, social work interns and faculty in the department of psychiatry. We provide case consultations with providers in other medical specialties, including internal medicine, pediatrics and neurology.
We have highly skilled, culturally informed psychiatrists, social workers, and professional counsellors on our team who have extensive experiences working with refugees and immigrants.
David Alan Harris is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a National Certified Counselor (NCC), and a Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist (BC-DMT), who has been providing individual and group therapy to refugees, asylum-seekers, and other immigrants since 2000. In working for two decades with survivors of extreme traumatic experiences associated with war, organized violence, and marginalized status, David has specialized in fostering mind-body connection as a pathway to recovery. David’s aim to support survivors in their struggle to restore dignity and well-being after human rights violations led him to supervise a mental health team for some two years in a war-ravaged corner of Sierra Leone, following a prolonged conflict that had decimated civilian populations. He trained counselors there and in Liberia, and with them introduced the first formal dance/movement therapy groups in West Africa, including the first anywhere for former child soldiers. David has since published scholarly articles and book chapters on this work and has lectured about trauma recovery on five continents.