Aurora Therapy Program for Immigrant and Refugee Families

The Aurora program provides culturally responsive therapy to immigrant and refugee individuals and families, focusing on issues of war-related trauma as well as on the impact of migration on family, relationships, and parenting issues.

Accessibility

The program offers services in a manner that makes family therapy more accessible to, and accepted by, immigrant and refugee populations. Many immigrants and refugees come from cultures practising different ways of healing and do not use “therapy” the way it is used in the Western context. The program has thus developed a flexible approach to intake procedure, offering to meet clients at their homes, community centres, other service providers’ offices, and places where they feel safe. Flexibility defines the program in terms of the length of sessions as well. Therapy is provided free of charge.

Newcomer Involvement

Working within a client-centred framework, the program acknowledges and seeks to accommodate the different attitudes, cultural practices, and approaches that many newcomers have regarding mental health and ways of healing. It does this by minimizing systemic and practical barriers and by adopting a flexible, culturally responsive therapeutic approach.

Stakeholder Collaboration

As a service provider, Aurora Family Therapy Centre (AFTC) has been engaged in a collaborative effort to design and deliver this program. Reaching out to, and connecting with, other service providers working with immigrants and refugees has been a significant part of the program, given the complex nature of the immigrant and refugee experience and the need for a network of resources.

As a result, an active network of ongoing partnerships has been developed with other service provider organizations in order to strengthen the referral process and disseminate knowledge and expertise. In the process, Aurora has become a member of several inter-agency associations and coalitions focused on helping immigrant and refugee populations. The centre is also involved in providing education, workshops, and training about war-related trauma and other therapy-related issues to fellow agencies and professionals.

Accountability

As a service funded by Manitoba Labour and Immigration – MIIP, the Aurora Therapy Program for Immigrant and Refugee Families is subject to rigorous reporting protocols which monitor both financial and program activities.

Positive Outcome

Individuals and families are more functional and less restricted by symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are able to seek and maintain jobs, learn English, develop healthy relationships, support themselves and their families, and engage in healthy coping strategies. Family members of war-trauma survivors are relieved of secondary trauma symptoms. Moreover, children are better supported through their adjustment at school and in other learning and social contexts. Members of immigrant and refugee communities are better integrated and adapted to their lives in Canada while being true to their own integral strengths and values developed in their countries of origin. Individuals, families, and communities are supported and strengthened as people develop healthier coping strategies.

A nation-wide research project, carried out by Social Equity and Health Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, recognized the Aurora program as a promising, innovative practice in mental health service provision for refugees in Canada. This recognition was part of the research findings presented at the 12th National Metropolis Conference in Montreal (March 18-21, 2010).

Transferability

This program is housed within an existing family therapy centre at a major university. A community therapist is responsible for supervision, outreach, and education. The program has access to a pool of internal therapists, supervised senior practicum students, and external therapists with a variety of cultural and language backgrounds, who are hired on a contractual basis as needed. Since the program is housed within a post-secondary clinical training facility, some therapy and therapist supervision costs are provided in-kind. The project also serves to build capacity of therapists to work with this special population.

This service is highly replicable in other jurisdictions if the appropriate supervision and service provider are available.

Background

Service Providers
Aurora Family Therapy Centre (AFTC)
Funders
Manitoba Labour and Immigration – Manitoba Immigrant Integration Program (MIIP).
Scope
Provincial/Territorial
Locations
Winnipeg (with some limited work in regional communities), MB
Year of Launch
May 2007
Languages of Delivery
English and various other languages – including French, Amharic, Arabic, Dari, Dinka, Farsi, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Korean, Lingala, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, Swahili, Tigriyna – as required by clients (through interpreters or service in first language)
Newcomer Groups Served
Immigrant and refugee families
Expected Results
Information and Orientation (Newcomers make informed decisions about their settlement and understand life in Canada)
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