Asylum Seekers and Refugees:
An Ethno-Clinical Approach

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy 2018, 39


‘Ethno-clinics’ is an impossible word. Defining ‘ethno-clinics’ is like placing a label on a name, concealing the polysemy of the term. We choose such a word because it is rarely used as a way of doing clinical work in psychotherapy (Dubosc, 2016; Salmi, 2004) but we have chosen not to place a ‘registered trademark’ on it, as it usually happens in the ‘free market of ideas.’ The word ‘ethno-clinics’ is a composition of two words that we will analyse in this essay. We will stress the difference between refugee and asylum seeker due to the generic use by the media of the word ‘refugee’, which is convenient in hiding the fact that the vast majority of immigrants to Europe, in present times, are just asylum seekers; precisely, since Europe does not recognise the human rights of the Other and rejects immigrants, not granting asylum and pushing those people into the backdoor. Nevertheless, ethno-clinical work does not practice antagonism; it deals with the particular small differences that subvert the complete representation of identity. In Bateson’s (1972) terms, a difference that makes a difference. The practice we describe is exercised in the context of a Cooperative Organisation, named Ruah, in Bergamo, Italy.

Key Points

  1. An ethno-clinical approach involves considerable complexity.‘
  2. The Method’ is not ‘the Model.’
  3. Asylum seekers and refugees face different challenges adjusting to life in Europe.
  4. ‘Languaging’ is about different ways of using language: from glossolalia to official idioms, passing through a variety of sounds and senses.
  5. The European political situation affects the physical and psychological health of both Europeans and new migrants.
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