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"Asylum is the Most Powerful Medicine": Navigating Therapeutic Interventions in Limbo.

Authors
  • Haas, Bridget M1
  • 1 School of Medicine and Department of Anthropology, Case Western Reserve University, Mather Memorial Bldg., Rm 238, 12200 Bellflower Rd., Cleveland, OH, 44106, USA. [email protected]
Type
Published Article
Journal
Culture Medicine and Psychiatry
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2021
Volume
45
Issue
2
Pages
193–217
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s11013-020-09681-7
PMID: 32661818
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic research among asylum seekers in the Midwestern United States, this article investigates how a profound sense of limbo informed the use, meaning, and experiences of psychotherapeutic interventions, namely psychiatric medication and psychotherapy. In doing so, the article brings into dialogue a consideration of temporal and spatial uncertainty as a key feature of refugee distress, on the one hand, and attention to the subjective experiences of mental health care, on the other. Asylum seekers used therapeutic interventions and found them meaningful in the multiple ways these modalities help claimants endure the asylum process. Yet, ultimately, because they identified the unjust, protracted asylum system as the primary locus of their distress, asylum seekers perceived therapeutic interventions to be limited in their ability to assuage their suffering. In this context, legal status was often understood as the most effective form of healing. Thus, a sense of limbo was often both the impetus for using mental health care and the reason for its perceived limitations. My analyses have implications beyond the context of political asylum, underscoring how attention to temporality is important to better understanding the use and experience of mental health care more broadly.

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