FY2020 Q1
Healing Focus
A Quarterly Digest from NCB
Welcome to the latest quarterly digest from The National Capacity Building Project at the Center for Victims of Torture, where we share recent news and resources on topics in torture survivor rehabilitation.

This digest contains resources for working with unaccompanied youth, it provides general background information, and working with youth trauma. This is part one of this topic. Next digest we will continue this topic and share resources around helping unaccompanied youth in other areas like school and their development. In this digest we have included a continuation on our training resources on for those working at survivors of torture treatment programs. These resources can be helpful for newly hired staff or for those who would like more training in this challenging field.
In this Issue
Did You Know?
Working with Unaccompanied Youth
Resources on
Highlights on Programs
From the Team

Did You Know?

Did you know that NCB offers free, remote consultations to meet pressing issues at torture survivor programs and refugee-serving organizations?

What is a consultation with NCB?
It is an opportunity for you and your program to work with an expert and seek their advice on issues or on a specific question regarding your work. NCB has experts that we can draw on to help you.

How does a consultation with NCB work?

Reach out to us by filling out this form with your specific question or issue and we will connect with you by email, phone or video conference.

Working with Unaccompanied Youth, Part 2

The U.S. has seen a marked increase in the number of unaccompanied youths arriving at the southwest border from around the world, and Central American countries in particular. Many of the youths arriving at the border have experienced severe trauma which may include gang violence, extreme poverty, gender-based violence, abuse, and discrimination based on their sexual or gender identity, and/or violence by family members. 

Relative to other youths who arrive in a host country as refugees, unaccompanied youth face unique challenges that place them at elevated risk for experiencing anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress. In many cases, the initial dangers and persecution that force a child to flee their country are compounded by a host of additional threats and dangers they encounter during the migration journey as well as post-migration stressors including the complexity and uncertainty of the asylum and resettlement process. Unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors might have experienced criminal victimization, physical, verbal, or sexual abuse, as well as vicarious traumatization. These experiences may vary in intensity and pervasiveness; they are often severe enough to warrant close examination and psychological treatment. Symptoms of depression may be observed once the reality of their situation begins to settle, sometimes including loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, crying, low energy, and somatic complaints. Young children may demonstrate irritability, mood swings, aggression, and hyperactivity. Consequently, mental health professionals working with this population must consider many factors including the individual’s cultural background and history, trauma story, journey of migration to the U.S., the trauma of family separations, and the complexities and the uncertainty in the asylum process. In addition, resettlement related stressors are also critical to consider which may include language-related difficulties, discrimination, bullying at school, academic challenges, and feeling isolated from their peers and alone in their experience.

Consistent, culturally competent counseling that prioritizes a felt sense of safety and incorporates evidence-based treatment strategies that are developmentally sensitive, trauma informed, and contextually and culturally adapted as appropriate, is key when working with this population. Creating a safe, calming environment in therapy sessions is crucial to building rapport and a trusting relationship and can be done in many engaging ways including through use of art, music, yoga, games, puppetry, and sand-trays to name several. 

The implementation of culturally appropriate screening methods is encouraged. Discussing the negative emotions related to experiences, unaccompanied minors should be encouraged to develop a new narrative to allow them to develop a sense of hope for the future. The use of the “Miracle Question” in which minors are encouraged to think about how things will be different if their current situation did not exist. Most importantly, the stabilization of symptoms in confidential spaces, and family inclusion in therapy by providing additional coping skills and basic needs is essential. 

Another resource for information on working with youth is the CVT's PATH Bibliography on and go to the Children and Youth section. Click here to view their latest bibliography.

A special thanks to all of our contributors on this topic including: Thomas Berkas our volunteer at NCB, Switchboard, BRYCS, and CVT's PATH project. Without their assistance we would not have been able to put this together.

Highlights on Programs

This section features survivors of torture programs that received funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The purpose of this section is so that you can learn about other organizations that are doing the same work and build your network. 

We asked the programs we are highlighting for any articles or other pieces that they might want to share and celebrate with others working with survivors of torture. In this digest XXX provided us a few newsletters and an article on their knitting circle group and how it is helping their clients. XXX has provided us with a few of their program highlights from 2019. Thank you for sharing with us your work and accomplishments!
Org name( and link to site) provides xxx

A few highlights from xxx in 2019:
  • 1
Org name (and link to ht site) promotes the health 

XXX shared with us a few of their recent newsletters as well as an article about their knitting circle group:

NCTTP Symposium

xxx - any updates from symposium?

Articles to Share

xxx - any updates from symposium?

From the Team

Healing Focus is a quarterly digest from The National Capacity Building Project at the Center for Victims of Torture that shares news and resources on torture survivor rehabilitation. Meet our team.

We would love to share work that you have been doing or resources that you have found helpful. Please  email Sara Bracewell with this information!

Also, if you would like to suggest a topic you would like us to cover in one of these digests, please let us know! For additional tools, resources, and trainings on working with survivors, visit


The National Capacity Building Project
Advancing the science of torture survivor rehabilitation by promoting integrated, sustainable care for survivors across the United States.
CVT's National Capacity Building Project received $400,000 through competitive funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant #90ZT0187. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

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