The experience of working with refugees : counsellors in primary care
The provision of counselling services for refugee and asylum-seeking patients is relatively new in the UK and their complex needs may present considerable challenges within primary care, where access to specialist support resources is often limited. As far as we know, no previous research has attempted to look at the experiences of the counsellors who do this work. We undertook in-depth interviews with 13 counsellors who provide counselling to refugees in primary care in north London. The findings of this study suggest that counsellors who work in a primary care setting find themselves conflicted, troubled and out of their depth by the experiences, narratives and distress presented by refugee and asylum-seeking patients. They also report an erosion of usual counselling boundaries. Thus, the problems presented by refugees seem to demand approaches which go beyond standard counselling practice and which create ambivalence and uncertainty. These counsellors express feelings of isolation and impotence. The paper concludes with implications for counselling practice and suggestions for further research.