Accepted Paper:

Looking to the future, moving from the past: Iraqi refugees resettled in San Diego, California present fear for the future and nostalgia for the past  


Dawn Stary (Survivors of Torture, International)

Paper short abstract:

Iraqi refugees living in San Diego, California and seeking therapy face unexpected economic hardships. As a result they envision a future wrought with obstacles and possess an overly positive view of past host countries. Such engendered thoughts can limit the therapeutic process and resettlement.

Paper long abstract:

Recently resettled Iraqi refugees living in San Diego, California, and who are seeking therapy have often moved across several borders before permanent resettlement in the United States. Envisioning an easier life in the United States Iraqi refugees demonstrate surprise at a high cost of living, limited work opportunities and confusion about the American system of benefits. Consequently, this population has constructed decisively positive and possibly exaggerated memories of life in their former host countries. Such memories of the past create fear and obstacles for the future of this population in their new home country and city of resettlement. Iraqi refugees have expressed doubt at being able to succeed in a country that appears to offer fewer opportunities to them than they had hoped for and of which they once assumed possible. These engendered thoughts of the past and future present during therapy sessions and can limit and complicate the therapeutic healing process. Therapeutic healing is limited because Iraqi refugee clients present a heightened level of fear about not having their needs met and thus struggle to progress forward and establish new communities and traditions in the United States. Iraqi refugee clients appear to straddle two worlds, one they recall as filled with opportunity and the current one that they perceive as overly restricted thus creating a sense of being trapped by the memories of the past and exceedingly anxious about the future.

Panel Mig005
Refugee visions and realities: interpreting time with people on the move