In these uncertain and challenging times, refugees have needed therapeutic support more than ever, but how can therapists connect with their clients when they’re not in the same room?
In the following articles, originally published on the PESI UK website, Jude Boyles, a Therapeutic Services Manager at the Refugee Council, reflects on how living through a pandemic affects the therapeutic relationship.
Virtual therapy with resettled Syrian refugees
Like most therapists, I have always offered therapy face to face. However, in the last few weeks of the pandemic, I have had to change the way I am working to ensure that I can continue to offer therapy and support to resettled Syrian refugees from home. In my first few calls to the clients on my caseload, almost all of them seemed at ease with this change, whereas I felt quite anxious. For Syrian refugees whose families are scattered around the world, long phone and video calls to friends and families abroad are the norm.
Loss and gain in lockdown therapy with refugees
As I neared the end of a recent phone session with a Syrian refugee client, I realised that my eyes were closed, and that my face was almost resting on the desk. I had been working so hard to focus on my client’s voice that I hadn’t noticed I was hunched over my phone with my eyes tightly shut in concentration.
Refugee clients: when ‘resettlement’ unsettles
Since March 2020, the UK Government hasn’t allowed any refugees to come to Britain through its global resettlement programme, giving refugees no safe or legal route into the UK. Many other countries have now resumed refugee resettlement. Prior to the pandemic, hundreds of Syrians were told that they had been selected for resettlement in the UK, but their flights were cancelled due to coronavirus. As the pandemic continues, the precarious and risky living conditions for those waiting in host countries such as Lebanon have worsened.