ARDD-Legal Aid has recently established a new psychosocial support unit for its beneficiaries from the refugee as well as the local community, which is being provided as a complementary, yet essential service to the organization’s legal services, which have been provided for several years on a large scale to beneficiaries.
The new psychosocial support service was established in ARDD-Legal Aid with essential assistance from the experienced Clinical Psychologist, and social researcher, Tamara Marcello. Dr. Marcello came to Jordan around four years ago and it was then when her keenness for humanitarian work emerged, thus she started working for multiple NGOs and charity societies before joining ARDD-Legal Aid last August.
– “In the past there was no focus in NGOs on mental health in general and particularly on psychosocial support”, says Dr. Marcello, “Now organizations are focusing more on this significant aspect, and establishing the psychosocial support unit in ARDD-Legal Aid is an example of this new focus”.
- You used to work with vulnerable groups before coming to Jordan but your work was different from what you have been doing in Jordan, tell us more about that.
– When I started my working life, I worked with male maximum security prisoners, which is quite different from what I have been doing since then and here in Jordan. But I wrote my PhD thesis on gender based violence, and have worked with many vulnerable groups including women victims of violence. I believe that all people who have faced hardships and have been in big crises have it within them to improve their own lives. They deserve assistance, support, and compassion – whether they are men or women, prisoners or gender based violence victims, adults or children. We should not forget that we all are human.
- In your opinion, what is the significance of having a psychosocial support unit at ARDD-Legal Aid?
– People generally don’t feel comfortable seeing a psychosocial specialist because of the social stigma, which could possibly hinder some people from seeing a specialist even if they feel the need for that. What is different about the service in ARDD-Legal Aid however is that people actually come to see their lawyers in the ARDD-Legal Aid community center, which is a training and info hub, but at the same time they have the option of seeing a psychosocial support specialist to help them confidentially, and that all comes without having to let anyone know they actually are seeking psychological help. On the other hand, integrating legal services with psychosocial services is new not only to ARDD-Legal Aid as an organization, but is also entirely new to Jordan. I personally have seen it being implemented in some of the countries in the west but on a limited scale whereas what we are doing in ARDD-Legal Aid’s psychosocial support unit is unique.
- How do cases get referred to the psychosocial support unit?
– Mainly people contact us either through our emergency line, which is the same line that receives beneficiaries’ calls for the legal unit. The case managers refer them, and sometimes lawyers in the legal unit refer some cases to the psychosocial support unit when the case needs to talk or take a consultation from a specialist, or through the work that Voice team does in the field -Voice is a project that gives voice to Syrian refugees through different platforms, such as sessions and focus groups. We also started recently establishing agreements with other organizations to generate a bilateral referral system.
- What are the major highlights of the unit so far? And what should people be expecting more in the future?
– The unit has started working with beneficiaries since September this year, which means it has only been active for two months, but the results so far have been positive; the clients are very happy with the service. Lawyers were unsure before about how to talk to beneficiaries, especially Syrian refugees – who have experienced very high levels of distress. They have found it really difficult to deliver bad news about their legal situation, knowing they would leave them feeling frustrated and hopeless. So the psychosocial support unit came in now to take this burden off their shoulder to a certain extent, and to help train the lawyers in managing these kinds of situations better. Also, the psychosocial unit plays an important role in empowering beneficiaries to take the right decision themselves depending on each situation.
After getting the program of the unit established and hiring Dr Lina Al Darras, a counseling psychologist as our psychosocial support officer, we are currently formalizing our referral mechanisms, ethical protocols and operating procedures. From this point on we will start increasing the caseload and expanding the unit. Dr Darras is now working directly with beneficiaries providing emotional support, life coaching, and helping them focus on their personal priorities.