- PHR Toolkits - http://phrtoolkits.org -

Psychological Evaluation #1

(based on an asylum evaluation conducted by Dr. Kathleen Allden, M.D. in November 2000, Boston, MA, USA)

I. Case Information

Name: Mr. __

Birth Date: x/xx/68

Birth Place: __

Gender: male

Clinician’s Name: Kathleen Allden, MD

Dates of Evaluation: August 23, 2000 (2 hours), September 6, 2000 (1 hour), September 13, 2000 (2 hours)

Interpreter: Not needed as client speaks English

Exam Requested by: Attorney Jane Doe

Subject Accompanied by: Attorney Jane Doe (first appointment only)

II. Clinician’s Qualifications [deleted]

Attached is my curriculum vitae.

I have personally examined this individual and have examined the facts recited in this written report. I believe all statements to be true. I would be prepared to testify to these statements based on my personal knowledge and belief.

III. Psychological / Psychiatric Evaluation

Background Information

Mr. __ is a 35 year old married man from [country A]. He came to the United States seeking asylum in February 2000. His wife and three children, ages 14, 10 and 5 years, are in a refugee camp in [country B], along with his mother and sister.

Summary of Collateral Sources

Draft Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal supplied by his attorneys

Methods of Assessment Utilized

Clinical interviews

History of Torture and Ill-treatment

Mr. __ reports that he came to the United States in February 2000. He is seeking asylum because he feels it is not safe for him to return to [country A]. He says that in 1990 he was at his parents’ home when __ rebel forces attacked the house. He believes that his family was targeted because of his father’s job in the government, and because they are of the __ ethnic group. He was at home with his father, mother and sister when the house was attacked. Mr. __ and his family were taken to a rebel camp. He reports that the rebels forced him to hold his sister down while they gang raped her. Also, he was forced to watch as rebels tortured his father and cut off his limbs one at a time. He reports he was forced at gunpoint to hold his father down while they did this. He believes the rebels killed his father because at the time he was an officer in the government.

After a period of time, his mother and sister were able to leave the camp but Mr. __ says he was taken to another camp where he was burned and cut on the right arm and put in a pit. While in pit, the rebels urinated on him, threw dirty water on him and beat him. He remained in the pit for a long period of time. Conditions were filthy in the pit and his right arm became very infected. Mr. __ recalls becoming ill and coughing up brown sputum. While he was still in the pit, [country A] soldiers overtook the camp and freed him. He said that they could tell that he was not one of the __ rebel forces soldiers because it was obvious that he had been severely mistreated by them. For this reason, his life was spared at that time. He reports then being taken to the border where he escaped to [country B] and was able to reunite with his mother and sister.

During the years 1990-96, Mr. __ reports that there were many factions fighting in [country A]. He did not go back to [country A] until 1996 when there was a cease-fire. He went to check on the family’s property but found that the family’s house had been burned. He remained in [country A] where he participated in the presidential campaign of __, and was physically beaten by opposing political forces that were on the same side that had originally attacked his home and killed his father. The soldiers took him to a prison. Mr. __ and his family are members of the __ tribe. He reports that he and other __ tribe prisoners were taken away to the forest to be killed. The soldiers shot at the group of prisoners as the prisoners ran away. An unknown number were killed but Mr. __ escaped.

He went to live in barracks in an area where other __ tribe people were staying because they felt they might be safe there. In 1998, when __ rebel forces attacked this area, many people were killed. Soldiers attempted to arrest Mr. __. He believed they would take him away and kill him. He managed to escape and ran to __ peacekeeping base where other __ tribe people as well as other civilians had fled. __ peacekeeping base personnel helped Mr. __ and others flee the country by arranging for flights from an airbase. Mr. __ was flown to [country B] where he joined his mother and sister in a refugee camp.

In describing these events, Mr. __ reports that he witnessed many horrible atrocities. He said he saw soldiers ask people if they wanted a “long sleeve” or a “short sleeve” and then would chop off the arm accordingly. He also saw soldiers kill infants by bashing their heads until the brains came out. He reports seeing a group of children thrown in a well to die. While describing these experiences he said he felt ashamed to be telling me about these events. He said he felt ashamed of what had happened in his country and in other nearby countries such as [country C]. He said of the war and violence that he has experienced and witnessed, “It’s part of me now.” He describes feeling permanently changed, altered by these terrible things.

Current Psychological Complaints

Mr. __ reports that when he first arrived in the United States he was afraid to go out of the house. He lives with friends who reassured him that the United States is not like [country A] and that people are safe when they go out of their houses. He felt he might be attacked if he went out. With his friends’ encouragement, he gradually tried going out of the house and now is able to travel without significant difficulty. He has learned how to use public transportation and feels comfortable enough to use the bus.

He describes other symptoms and fears that were particularly bothersome when he first arrived in the United States but that have gradually diminished. For example, he would sleep in his clothes. He did this because in the past he felt he always had to be ready to run, ready to escape. When he came here he continued this habit until, gradually with friends’ encouragement, he was able to undress for sleep. He reports previously having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. He says that now he is able to sleep several hours per night but that he has nightmares of terrible past experiences during the war. His sleep disturbance and the frequency of his nightmares have improved slowly over the months since his arrival in the United States. He describes experiencing intrusive memories of the past and finds that he constantly worries about what would happen if he were sent back to [country A]. He describes being very sensitive to loud sounds and easily startled. During July 4 celebrations this summer, neighbor children were lighting firecrackers. This caused him to be very fearful and anxious as it reminded him of being in the war. His nightmares also worsened during that time period.

Mr. __ reports avoiding being reminded of the war and violence that he has experienced. For example, he avoids speaking about it. He also avoids television programmes that have violent scenes, or reports and news clips about war in [country C]. He says he avoids becoming angry or annoyed. He says he knows what people can do when they lose control and act on their anger. He says he tries to keep himself numb. He offers the example that if someone slapped him on the face, he would not feel it because he would be numb. He describes trying to push bad memories out of his mind and trying to distance himself from the past. He avoids going out on the street or in public and tries to stay indoors away from people he does not know. He says it is hard for him to see injustice or someone being mistreated. Because he becomes very angry when he witnesses injustices, he keeps himself isolated in order not to be exposed to situations that would anger him. He also feels that the cultural differences between the United States and his home are many and it is hard for him to cope with the differences. He says he only wants to be around people who encourage him and reassure him that things will turn out all right in the long run.

He worries about his family living as refugees in [country B]. His main goals are to bring his wife and children here and to work to send money to his mother and sister. (He has been told he will not be able to bring his mother and sister to the United States.) He says that having these goals helps him survive. He says that now that his father is dead it is his responsibility to look after the needs of his mother and the rest of the family. If it were not for these responsibilities, Mr. __ says he would prefer to be dead. He says he has seen too much suffering and cruelty. The past seems like a dream, the happy times in the past seem unreal. Although he contemplates suicide, he says all is not lost because if he is granted asylum, he may be able to bring his wife children to the United States so they can have a better future. He does not have confidence that there will be peace in his country for a long time.

Mr. __ says that his religious beliefs help him cope with his life. He reads the Bible every day. He speaks of his devotion to Jesus Christ and his faith in God.

Post-Torture History

Mr. __ was a refugee in [country B] before coming to the United States. He said that life in [country B] is very harsh. Food is scare, infectious diseases are common, and it is very hard to make a living. Also, people in the region do not trust people from [country A], according to Mr. __, fearing they are members of rebel groups. His family encouraged him to leave __ and go to the United States. He traveled to the United States via [country A] with the assistance of a close friend of the family. His mother, sister, wife and children are living in [country B] in a refugee camp. Currently, Mr. __ lives with friends in Massachusetts. He feels welcomed and supported by them. He has been staying with these friends since his arrival in the United States. His hosts are friends of his late father. Mr. __ does not work because he is not legally permitted to work. He feels he is able to work and he would like to work in order to earn money for his family.

Pre-Torture History

Family history: Mr. __ is one of two siblings; he has one sister. He grew up in the home of his mother and father, who were Baptists. His father was a government official in the former government. According to Mr. __, his father was able to earn a good living and the family was well provided for. Mr. __ met his wife when they were both in school; they were married around 1985. After they were married they lived with Mr. __’s parents. They have three children ages 14, 10, and 5. He describes a happy childhood and family life until the time that war broke out in his country in 1990.

Educational history: Mr. __ reports he has a high school education and completed a junior college programme in computer science.

Occupational history: Mr. __ is trained in computer science. He has not practiced that profession. While a refugee in [country A], he supported his family as a vendor.

Cultural and religious background: Mr. __ was raised as a Baptist and continues to practice his religion in the United States. He is from the __ tribe.

Medical History

Prior to the war, Mr. __’s had several episodes of malaria. Otherwise his health was good. During the time he was kept in the pit he developed a severe respiratory illness which he describes as bronchitis with a productive cough and vomiting that required long-term treatment with antibiotics after he was finally released. He says he still has right-sided chest pain and that when he takes a deep breath, he hears wheezes in his chest. He still coughs up phlegm. His chest pain is worse during rainy weather. Also, he complains of right arm pain where his arm was cut by his torturers. He has not had a physical exam since coming to the United States.

Past Psychiatric History

There is no past history of mental illness.

Substance Use and Abuse History

Prior to coming to the United States, Mr. __ reports that he had great difficulty falling asleep. He would drink alcohol to help fall asleep. He does not do this now. He denies using illicit drugs.

Mental Status Examination

  1. General appearance – Mr. __ is a neatly dressed man who was very polite and cooperative during the interviews. He was clearly distressed by having to retell his history of trauma. He was tearful and moderately agitated especially during our first meeting.
  2. Motor activity – No obvious psychomotor retardation. He was somewhat agitated and frustrated at times but able to tolerate the long interviews.
  3. Speech – His English is fluent but his accent is very heavy and I had difficulty understanding him at times. His speech was logical and goal directed. He was able to express his emotions and ideas very well.
  4. Mood and affect – Frequently during the interviews, he was clearly overwhelmed with feelings of loss and sadness. He also expressed horror at witnessing extreme cruelty and violence. He appeared frustrated at not being able to communicate to me how extremely awful the atrocities that he witnessed were. His affect was labile. He was often tearful. He was able to smile on occasion.
  5. Thought content – His thoughts centered on two main themes, his worries for his family and the horrors he has witnessed and experienced. These worries and memories seem to occupy his thought much of the time.
  6. Thought process – There is no evidence of paranoia, delusions, referential ideation or other disturbance of thought. There is no evidence of hallucinations.
  7. Suicidal and homicidal ideation – There is no evidence of homicidal ideation but he has thoughts of suicide. He says that he would prefer to be dead and that the only reason that he stays alive is that his family is his responsibility and he hopes to be able to help them have a better life.
  8. Cognitive exam – He is oriented and alert. He gives the proper date and place. He does not seem to have difficulty with long term recall but admits that giving precise dates of events is very hard for him. His immediate recall is impaired as evidenced by is ability to recall only 4 of 6 digits when asked to do so. His intermediate recall is similarly impaired as evidenced by his ability to recall only 2 of 3 objects that he is asked to recall after a 3-minute time lapse. His overall global cognitive function may also be impaired as evidenced by is inability to spell a five-letter word backwards.

Clinical Impression (Interpretation of Findings)

Conclusion and Recommendations