Constructive or Counterproductive? Benefits and Challenges of Integrating Mental Health Professionals into Asylum Representation
46 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2015 Last revised: 4 Sep 2016
Date Written: August 30, 2016
Within the field of refugee law, collaboration between lawyers and mental health professionals is increasingly prevalent, particularly in the context of law school clinics and legal services organizations. This trend has the power to transform the experiences of asylum seekers and the professionals who represent them, both improving case outcomes and enhancing the advocacy skills of lawyers and law students. An interdisciplinary approach is also critical to empowering asylum seekers, many of whom have fled serious human rights abuses and are as much in need of medical and mental health care, food, shelter and other basic necessities, as legal representation. Yet, until recently, little attention has been paid to tensions that may arise given the differing mandates and ethical obligations of each set of professionals. This Article seeks to address and reconcile these tensions. The Article first identifies the impetus for, and the benefits of, increased interdisciplinary collaboration in asylum representation. It then highlights obstacles to collaboration, including conflicts between the ethical codes of conduct of lawyers and mental health clinicians. The Article concludes with an analysis of different models of interdisciplinary collaboration, highlighting recent legal and policy developments that support an integrated team approach to asylum representation.
Keywords: immigration, asylum, human rights, ethics, legal education
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