Oasis Legal Services is hosting a free Asylum Law Training on Saturday, February 24, 2018 from 9am to 12pm. The training will cover the basics of Asylum Law, how to represent clients in affirmative asylum interviews, and include a discussion with licensed psychotherapist Grace Ohikere, M.A., MFT, regarding the use of psychological evaluations in asylum cases. We would love for you to join us.
Oasis Legal Services proudly provides quality legal immigration services to under-represented low-income groups with a focus on LGBTQIA+ communities. We provide comprehensive legal services to assist LGBTQIA+ immigrants, including screening for immigration relief, affirmative asylum, residency, citizenship, and family petitions.
We are building our Pro Bono Attorney Program and will have information at the training about how you can participate."
It was a pleasure to speak at Making Waves Academy in Richmond, California to an AP Psychology class and participate in a round-table discussion, with high school students considering a career in the mental health field. Students at Making Waves Academy were interested in many elements of working in the mental health field, not limited to degree type, cost, income after graduation, working with clients, and more.
I knew I had to bring my A game because the day before my visit, I received this list of questions from the students in the AP Psychology class. Kids that come from the struggle don't want nor need any sugar-coating, and can read people like a book. I had to give it to them straight, because, well...I used to be that kid.
1. How much money do you [or people in your profession, on average] make? Is it enough to support living in the Bay Area?
2. Do you recommend getting a master’s degree?
3. What do you like most about your job?
4. Have you ever had a patient you didn’t really know how to help?
5. How long did it take to get your license?
6. What surprised you about your job?
7. What made you want to pursue this path?
8. What is the most common reason why people visit your office?
9. Have you ever questioned your career path?
10. What do you see in society that worries you?
11. What is your day to day life like?
I shared about working in community mental health clinics, providing mental health services in Spanish, working with victims of violent crime, working alongside law enforcement and first responders, collaborating with psychiatrists and psychiatric hospital staff, submitting reports and correspondence to probation officers, and starting my own practice.
It was a pleasure to share some personal anecdotes of my beginnings, growing up in a low-income household, with family members with little to no knowledge about how to apply for college, let alone have the means to pay for it.
Looking at the many faces in the crowd that appeared worried, interested, overwhelmed, stressed, and....bored....(hey, it's high school)....I saw myself in many of them, and offered my very best words of inspiration, strategies, and hope to the student body.
I was excited to be invited by school staff to return for Career Day in March 2018, to offer up more opportunities for one-on-one conversations about the vast array of career options in the mental health field...and personal experience with navigating the many existing obstacles for low-income students of color, to getting there.
Oasis Legal Services is a new non-profit immigration firm, whos staff tirelessly works to secure a safe haven in the united states for gay, lesbian, and transgender asylum seekers, fleeing violence, torture, and hateful treatment in their countries of origin. their staff members speak fluent Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Japanese. I was initially introduced to oasis legal services through attorney Dustin Bankston, owner of Bankston Immigration Law Office in El Cerrito, California, who worked with Oasis staff members, at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, in Berkeley, California.
I had the pleasure to join this team of immigration attorneys, volunteers, language interpreters, board accredited representatives, executive board members, and other essential figures, vital in maintaining the success of this unique and cutting-edge specialty firm.
In my role as a licensed mental health clinician, i meet many of their clients, who undergo psychological evaluations, for whom i provide a formal written report, which is utilized for their immigration cases. more often than not, i uncover severe incidents of victimization, hate-based targeting, experiences of torture, severe abuse and neglect, and other paralyzingly traumatic experiences. i conduct a comprehensive screening for various mental disorders, of which the primary findings are Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and other trauma-based anxiety disorders, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Oasis Legal Services held a team meeting to increase connection among their many diverse collaborators, share inspiration, plan for their exciting next steps, and champion the group for social justice. it was a pleasure to meet new team members, and reunite with some old friends.
for more information on Oasis Legal Services in Oakland, California...
Grace Ohikere, MFT spoke with high school students at Making Waves Academy in Richmond, California about career opportunities and the varying salaries in the mental health profession. A group of students received the opportunity to have a round table discussion with a licensed psychotherapist, and expressed particular concern about if salaries will be sufficient for an economically stable life in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Oasis Legal Services is a nonprofit immigration firm in Oakland, California who advocates and specializes in the unique immigration needs for the LGBTQIA+ community. Most of their clients are monolingual Spanish speaking survivors of severe forms of violence, torture, hate crimes, and other experiences of cruel discrimination in their countries of origin, solely based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
A Reflection on the Cultural Implications of Asian Immigrants/Asian-Americans Receiving an HIV/AIDS Diagnosis.
I spent the Thanksgiving weekend studying in depth...for seven hours...about HIV/AIDS, and its implications in the mental health field. I have previous experience at La Clinica de la Raza's department of mental health in Oakland, California, providing mental health treatment services and case management to Latino beneficiaries of the Ryan White Program. Although I do hold prior clinical knowledge about the existentially painful and profound complexity of grief that arises after receiving an HIV/AIDS diagnosis, I sought this opportunity to study some new information.
A little tidbit that I learned...
Six percent of those living with HIV/AIDS in the United States are of Asian cultural heritage...
This is particularly interesting to me, based on my experience working with Asian immigrants and Asian-American clients. Many times when I start psychotherapy with a client who identifies as Asian or Asian-American, I often struggle to gain complete information about whether there is a history of mental health problems in the family. I remember one Vietnamese client shared that she suspects that probably there are plenty of mental health problems, but no one ever talked about it or showed any outward behaviors, "because that's just the way it is. No one would have be caught dead having a panic attack or admitting they were depressed in front of anyone. It's all about looking good." Some Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans have shared in therapy sessions about the nearly impossible expectations and standards there are within their unique cultural community. Honor, wealth, achievement, the display of happiness, and success are values that have been shared with me as culturally important....which also, are often anxiety provoking.
Considering that six percent of at least 168,000 people in the United States living with HIV or AIDS are of Asian cultural identity, I surmise that members of this particular cultural group may experience a uniquely difficult and distressing response to a new HIV/AIDS diagnosis. Receiving this diagnosis as someone with the aforementioned cultural values and norms could certainly lead to profound and severe levels of depression, death-related anticipatory anxiety, isolation from other people, and intense internal self-shaming.
Of course, one cannot generalize about members of a culture or ethnicity, given the high amount of diversity within cultures, countries, families, and individuals. Since I practice psychotherapy from a cultural lense, I always like to expand my knowledge of other cultures, and openly invite conversation regarding the cultural implications of one's mental health, physical health, or situational problems, on one's unique identity and experience.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/ICE has attempted to discredit the professional credentials and licensure that I hold on a couple different occasions, with regards to my professional ability and scope of practice to provide a psychological evaluation and court testimony, to help an individual or family facing deportation. I reached out to my professional organization, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) to request assistance of Mr. David Jensen, J.D. (click for bio), who is a staff attorney, to seek assistance with advocacy. Thanks to Mr. Jensen and a therapist's little voice, CAMFT is leading the way in establishing the respectability and diagnostic authority of California Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT). To read the latest article published by CAMFT on the advancements of MFT's and roles in immigration cases, click HERE to be directed to the article.
Culturally conscious mental health services signify more than just having a working knowledge of the interaction of different cultures and psychology. It means that if you have to bring your kids to our session because there is no childcare, I'm ready with activities for them to do. It means that if political issues and racial oppression are affecting your mental health negatively, then that becomes incorporated into our collaborative treatment plan. It means that if going to therapy is taboo or considered "weak" in your community, I help you come up with a good cover story each week. If you preparing to come out of the closet to an Evangelical Christian family in a family therapy session, I'm prepared with Bible verses applicable to your treatment goals and relationship goals. It means that if a member of an interracial/intercultural couple is misinterpreting the other's behavior, there might be a "cultural miss" occurring...Culturally competent mental health services are comprehensive, customized, and address the pressures and values of our many diverse identities.
Grace Ohikere, M.A., MFT
One of my passions is the intersection between culture and psychology...here's a little sample of stuff I nerd out on related to a third gender that has existed for a long long time in a particular Mexican culture:
It has been suggested that in the Zapotec culture of Oaxaca, Mexico, there is a three gender system which predates Spanish colonization. In Zapotec cultures of Oaxaca, Mexico, a muxe is an assigned male at birth individual who dresses and behaves in ways otherwise associated with the female gender; they may be seen as a third gender. Some marry women and have children while others choose men as sexual or romantic partners.
Read more about it here:
I am thrilled to announce that I have been approved as a Subject Matter Expert with the licensing board, The Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), I serve a wide variety of persons who seek support for issues related to relationship distress, anxiety, depression, LGBT issues, addiction, and other mental health disorders. I am proud to offer evidenced-based treatment and be recognized in my profession as a Subject Matter Expert!
It took about 8 hours to film 8 segments on anxiety reduction. I shared so many coping skills that untwist negative thinking, relax the body physically, and improve insight into how our anxiety issues came about in the first place. It was fun filming but I am happy to be back providing psychotherapy and psychological evaluations...it's what I do best!