frequently asked questions for meNTAL HEALTH evaluatORS
Answers to inquiries we commonly receive from prospective mental health evaluators are organized in the following Q&A sections:
Evaluator Qualifications & Requirements
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Looking for more information about medical evaluations? Check out the medical evaluator FAQ here.
EVALUATOR QUALIFICATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS
Q: What qualifications are needed to become a mental health evaluator for asylum & humanitarian protection cases?
A: To conduct psychological evaluations without clinical supervision, volunteer evaluators must be mental health professionals who are independently licensed to diagnose in a state where EAHR operates: Arizona, Washington. Our dedicated team of mental health evaluators currently includes volunteers who hold the following types of licenses/credentials: LICSW, LPC, LMHC, LMFT, LCDC, PhD, PsyD, DO, MD, and PMHNP.
In some cases, a mental health clinician in-training – such as a psychiatry resident or LMSW who is working towards but has not yet obtained their independent licensure – can conduct evaluations with an attending psychiatrist or clinical supervisor, respectively. The level of supervision required in this process depends on how far along they are in the process of becoming fully licensed; please contact our team for more information.
Behavioral health professionals with all different types of specialties can leverage their unique expertise to make an impact. We see a very diverse range of case needs at EAHR; some of our highly-requested areas of expertise include trauma, domestic violence, sexual abuse, child and adolescent mental health, Traumatic Brain Injuries, chronic illness/pain, Spanish-language care, grief and loss, substance use, and LGBTQ-affirming care. You do not need to be a specialist specifically in trauma or refugee health in order to make a tremendous impact!
Q: I am not licensed in Arizona or Washington. Can I still volunteer with EAHR?
A: We are exploring options for this at our location in Arizona, where state laws and licensure regulations could potentially allow out-of-state evaluators to conduct telehealth evaluations and support the high local need for psychological evaluations, but unfortunately do not have capacity to arrange out-of-state evaluations at this time.
We are deeply grateful for your interest in volunteering as an evaluator and strongly encourage you to check back in with us next year or seek another opportunity to engage in this vital work! You are welcome to access our EAHR Training Series, and our team is glad to help connect you with another program coordinating evaluations in your area or at the U.S.-Mexico border, where telehealth evaluations are not restricted by specific states of licensure.
Q: Do I need to commit to a specific number of evaluations in order to volunteer?
A: As there is a cost associated with processing volunteers' background checks, we ask that onboarded volunteers complete at least one evaluation. Beyond this, there is no set requirement. Some of our mental health evaluators take one or two cases per year, and others conduct upwards of one evaluation per month. The number of cases assigned and their respective deadlines are entirely up to the evaluator’s availability and capacity. We are happy to work with you on whatever timeframes and deadlines are most realistic for your schedule!
Q: Do I need to be willing to testify?
A: Experts cannot be subpoenaed in immigration court, and testimony is never required. If evaluators have any flexibility to clear an hour of their schedule for immigration court testimony, these optional additional hours can also make a meaningful difference for an asylum-seeker's case.
Q: Do I need malpractice or liability insurance?
A: In the evaluation context, asylum-seekers are not patients or clients, and the evaluator is not acting as a care provider; evaluations are a one-time, optional assessment that cannot constitute any form of counseling or treatment relationship. As such, most malpractice scenarios do not apply in these cases, and overall liability is quite low.
There is a theoretical possibility that an evaluator could be accused of negligence, but in discussions with peer programs that offer evaluation services nationwide, we've verified that - among tens of thousands of medical & psychological asylum evaluations conducted all over the U.S. in the last 10+ years - our partners in this field have never heard of any lawsuit or board complaint filed against an evaluator. To address this theoretical liability, some of our volunteers choose to include evaluations as part of their work under the malpractice/liability insurance plans they are already obtaining for their professional/private practice, but most others choose to go without.
Q: When and where do evaluations take place?
A: Evaluations can be scheduled at all times of day, including weeknights and weekends, based on the evaluator’s availability. Once an evaluator notifies us that they have availability to schedule an evaluation, our staff will work with the volunteer to identify an appropriate referral.
The majority of EAHR’s psychological evaluations for non-detained adults are conducted remotely via telehealth at this time. For young children and other cases where an in-person evaluation is clinically most appropriate, evaluations may be hosted at the evaluator’s clinic space or a community clinic space partnering with EAHR. Evaluations also can be held at some IRC offices.
There is a growing need for psychological evaluations for survivors who are detained at immigration detention centers. Evaluations for detained survivors are almost always conducted in person at the detention facility. The legal representative and EAHR Support Team will help evaluators obtain the necessary security clearance and coordinate logistics. Appointment time slots at detention centers vary by location and circumstance.
Q: Why are detention evaluations important?
A: Expanding Access, Advancing Equity and Upholding Due Process in the U.S. Immigration System: Detained survivors' cases are denied at significantly higher rates than non-detained cases, due to a range of systemic barriers: their cases are often adjudicated faster, their access to legal counsel is significantly diminished, and their ability to gather and collect the necessary evidence for their immigration case is drastically encumbered. Additionally, detained survivors are often particularly isolated and experience heightened levels of racism, discrimination, and abuse. Evaluating detained survivors is a meaningful and impactful way of communicating that their wellbeing and safety matter to the wider community, that they deserve due process under law, and that the dehumanizing ill treatment many survivors endure in immigration detention is unacceptable.
Reporting Medical Neglect and Other Human Rights Abuses: Medical neglect is one of the most commonly-reported human rights abuses in ICE custody, and EAHR evaluators regularly document untreated or insufficiently treated medical and mental health concerns during detention evaluations. In addition to providing critical evidence for the survivors' immigration cases, this reporting of acute, unmet clinical needs can help legal representatives advocate for the survivor to obtain adequate treatment and potentially aid in the survivor's release.
Q: Can I decline to do evaluations in immigration detention?
A: You can decline any evaluation request that isn’t a good fit for your expertise, availability or capacity. Detention evaluations often present additional clinical and logistical challenges that aren’t workable for everyone—and we also receive non-detained referrals in critical need of evaluations! EAHR staff will find another way to ensure the referral is served if you decide to decline.
Q: How much time does a psychological evaluation take to complete?
A: The time it takes to complete an evaluation can vary widely, both due to evaluators' unique processes and the complexity of a given case. On average, mental health evaluations involve a 2–5-hour clinical assessment interview, plus 8-12 hours to write, edit, and finalize the written affidavit.
Q: How is interpretation arranged for evaluations?
A: Evaluation Alliance Support Team staff coordinate all logistics related to interpretation with the applicant’s legal representative. The interpreter may join the evaluation appointment via video, telephone, or in-person, depending on what is most clinically appropriate and logistically viable. Detention evaluations tend to use telephonic interpretation.
Q: What should I do if I identify a concern that is unrelated to the legal case during the evaluation?
A: If you identify a health concern during your exam, please ask the applicant whether they are receiving care and encourage them to talk to their care provider about it (or to speak with EAHR staff about finding a care provider, if they do not have one!). Beyond encouraging the applicant to seek care and notifying our team that a referral is needed, any form of treatment or professional advice should be avoided to maintain the boundaries of your role as an evaluator.
Here are some frequent scenarios that may arise during an evaluation:
Applicants who have survived sexual torture or sex trafficking may not have been tested yet for STIs. In some cases, the fear of having contracted an STI like HIV/AIDS might be causing significant distress; in other cases, the applicant might not be aware that they should be tested.
It is standard practice during evaluations to document ongoing mental health symptoms and diagnoses associated with past trauma. The applicant may not have a mental health provider to treat these ongoing symptoms, or they may report that they were forced to cease treatment or medication due to financial barriers.
Medical neglect is unfortunately pervasive in U.S. immigration detention centers, and one of the most commonly-reported human rights abuses in ICE custody. Our evaluators often find that detained applicants are not receiving treatment for serious health concerns and/or are not receiving care in a language they understand (they might be taking medication but have no idea what it is for, as they are denied a medical interpreter).
When a health concern arises, the best course of action is to tell the applicant that the EAHR team can support connecting them to resources and you will notify EAHR to contact them about next steps! We provide all evaluators with a Post-Evaluation Needs Assessment form that can be used to quickly record these needs and share with EAHR staff. EAHR staff will then work on connecting the applicant to ongoing medical or mental health care, in addition to any other critical needs identified. (In detention, we’ll work with the applicant’s attorney on next steps for getting the support they need.)
If the applicant is in crisis, EAHR staff are on-call during every evaluation to handle suicidality assessment and safety planning, so that volunteers can responsibly maintain the boundaries of their role as evaluators rather than care providers.
Q: Is there a template or collection of examples we can adapt for our affidavits?
A: Yes! We include a sample evaluation and affidavit structure guide in the training materials packet shared with all evaluators who attend our Psychological Evaluations Workshop (Module 3). Once onboarded, EAHR evaluators also gain access to a library of volunteer resources that includes redacted sample affidavits, articles, and tip sheets.
Q: Can I shadow an experienced evaluator before doing it the first time alone?
A: We pair everyone with a mentor before their first evaluation. If you are physically located near our other volunteers, mentorship may be able to include shadowing an evaluation.
Q: What are the next steps to apply to become a volunteer?
A: Before submitting an application, all prospective evaluators must complete the EAHR Training Series, which includes Module 1: Introduction to the EAHR, Module 2: Introduction to Humanitarian-Based Immigration Protection, and Module 3: Medical Evaluations for Asylum and Humanitarian Protection. The training series takes roughly 3 hours total to complete and is designed to equip volunteers with the foundations to begin conducting evaluations for survivors of torture, persecution and human rights abuses.
Once you have completed the EAHR Training Series, please click here to follow the steps to submit a volunteer application!
"Meeting with and interviewing asylum seekers and other trauma and torture survivors has been moving. Their stories are profound and give me a great appreciation for the resilience of those survivors as well as a broader appreciation for the range of challenges facing so many in the world. Many assume this would be heavy work and depressing or potentially lead to secondary trauma, for me the resilience I have witnessed has led to increased hopefulness or what I like to call secondary resilience. I am so moved by the ability of people who have lost so much, suffered so much to retain their own sense of hope."
- EAHR Volunteer