Triple Trauma Paradigm

New immigrants are often believed to be “in the midst of a chronological interaction of three distinct traumatic periods” (Michultka, 2009):

1. The trauma of the country of origin

2. The trauma of the escape/journey of immigration

3. The trauma of the relocation process

1. Country of Origin

The trauma of the country of origin that led to the “flight” from their country as a result of:

  • Oppression
  • Discrimination due to an identification with an “undesired group” –frequently via the refusal of employment, housing, medical care, basic human rights
  • Targeting –receiving threats, being watched, being forced into hiding
  • Torture – physical actions, which could include beatings, mock assassinations, isolation, rape, injury/death to family members, detention, starvation

2. Escape/Journey of Immigration

Due to the vulnerability of victims of oppression and torture, the escape from the country of origin and the journey to the new host country can be plagued by traumatic events such as:

  • Individuals may be forced to leave their families, friends and possessions with minimal warning or time to plan and gather valuable belonging and legal documentation.
  • Some immigrants may experience extreme travel conditions as a result of walking expansive distances, being locked in enclosed places, having minimal food and water, and ensuring fluctuating climates
  • Due to the dangers that many immigrants face during their journey, many become victims of crimes such as robbery or rape, but frequently have minimal (if any) resources to access legal services

3. Relocation Process

  • When immigrants arrive to a new country, they may be re-traumatized by a hostile legal system, poverty, social isolation, forced family separation, and a loss of a social role
  • Immigrants may face trauma-related symptoms which they may not make sense of if they do not receive mental health services and therefore could add to their level of stress.
  • The loss of family identity, community and culture
  • The challenges of adjusting to a new job, language, “changes in familial and gender roles,” and not knowing the social structures of the host country cause further isolation
  • A fear of retribution and continuation of conflicts form the country of origin
  • Immigration policy and deportation
  • Anti-immigrant attitudes

(Michultka, 2009, p. 145-146)

Learn about Vicarious Trauma –>


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