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The Wound of Immigration

By Claudia Carballal, MS., LPC-A

Moving from one country to another causes a radical alteration of one's cultural and geophysical surround. Separation from friends and family, loss of valued possessions, and encountering new ways of living can result in mental pain and disorienting anxieties (Akhtar, 2014).

In therapy, clients often come from a variety of backgrounds within the United States. However, the experience of migration and the acculturation process in post-migration is rarely seen as a potentially traumatic impact that triggers various psychological defenses in the immigrant, including nostalgia and fantasies of return.

Regardless of the type of migrationimmigrant, migrant worker, refugee, asyleethe experience of immigration can create emotional wounds and internal conflict that trigger a variety of psychological defenses.

There are many aspects of an immigrant's life that must be addressed during counseling sessions, including mourning the loss of country and family, identity change, the complexities of navigating a new system, the need to make vocational and career changes and finding stable work, making new friends or facing isolation, the impact on marriage and relationships, religion, and politics, to name a few. The immigrant's unresolved emotional and psychological conflict is passed on to the next generation including cultural expectations and costumes that are not necessarily relevant to children who are born in the new country.

Clients with a variety of backgrounds and countries of origin, can make counseling therapy more challenging. It is not enough to know about the client's culture or have cultural humility. The competent multicultural therapist must understand the complexities of the immigration experience and provide clinical strategies for working with immigrants, ethnically diverse patients, and their children.


Claudia Carballal works as a Clinical Counselor in the United States with a private practice specializing in multicultural counseling therapy and life coaching. Her therapy work combines Western psychology and Eastern teachings. For three decades, Claudia has worked with immigrant and multicultural populations in the legal and the mental health fields. She is the author of Yoga Psychology for Mental Health: A Guide to the Wisdom of Eastern Philosophy and Yoga Psychology for Mental Health and Healing. For more information, visit Claudia Carballal Counseling. Follow Claudia on Instagram


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