AMERA International has developed and supports use of a model of therapeutic legal assistance for refugee legal representation. This model reflects what AMERA considers to be three core pillars to effective legal aid, informed by and supportive of emotional and mental health needs throughout legal processes:

Quality legal representation

  • Trauma informed lawyering through trained legal advisors & interpreters
  • Knowledge and understanding among refugee legal aid providers of the impact of mental health on refugees’ access to legal processes, and its impact on effective legal representation
  • Systems are established for identifying and responding to clients’ mental health needs as part of the legal process
  • Legal advisors can acknowledge and respond to the impacts of vicarious trauma; support is available as needed

Casework & advocacy

  • Legal casework is conducted with an understanding of the impact of legal needs & relationships with legal advisors on the wider mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of clients
  • Wherever possible, legal advisors coordinate with psychosocial and case management services to ensure that mental health, psychosocial and protection needs are addressed
  • Legal advisors and other professionals involved with the client coordinate in advocacy to address individual needs that impact on the client’s ability to participate effectively in their legal process
  • Clients’ wellbeing is positively impacted through the involvement of advocates

Mental health assessments, reports, and access to treatment

  • Legal advisors understand the value and approach to using mental health assessments and reports to facilitate quality legal representation and fair refugee status determination and other legal processes for refugees with mental health needs
  • Suitable systems are in place to identify and refer people for mental health assessments, reports, and treatment as necessary
  • Mental health practitioners are trained in legal processes facing refugees, informing assessments and reports that provide an outline of clients’ symptoms, diagnosis, the clinical implications, and recommendations
  • Legal advisors have knowledge of guidelines, standards, best practices, and references for incorporating mental health reports in their representation
  • Legal organizations are assisted in advocacy with UNHCR and decision makers to allow for the meaningful use of mental health assessments and reports in legal representation

AMERA supports organisations to implement the model, directly or through cooperation with other service providers. AMERA can support in adaptation of the model to suit the context, capacity and available resources of legal aid practitioners. Resources and training are available for legal aid practitioners on some or all aspects of the model, as relevant to their work and needs.

For more information or to discuss training and support needs contact info@amerainternational.org.