Working with Torture Survivors

Use the menu at right to explore all of the mental health evaluator training resources in this section. Click the title of a resource below to read or leave comments, or easily share the resource.

Chapter 3: Core Competencies in Working with Survivors

Attachment(s): PDF icon Healing_the_Hurt_Ch3.pdf

When providers are familiar with and respect the culture, language, and trauma experience of their clients, they create bridges of understanding. In order to provide appropriate and effective services, professionals need to develop a degree of expertise in the following four core fields of competency: KNOWLEDGE of the life experiences and resettlement issues of refugees, asylum seekers and asylees before, during, and after the violence; COMPREHENSION of torture and its long-term effects on survivors, their families, their community, and professionals who work with them; CULTURAL COMPETENCE with traumatized people; WORKING EFFECTIVELY with interpreters. This chapter provides information on the four competency areas that apply to providers in all disciplines and service domains.

Communicating Effectively Through an Interpreter

Cross Cultural Health Care Program (1998)

This excellent 28-minute video helps providers with: choosing an appropriate interpreter; recognizing the signs of professional and unprofessional interpretation; working effectively with a trained interpreter; guiding an untrained interpreter.
Note: Available for purchase; cost $150 in 2012


General Considerations for Interviews

Physicians for Human Rights (2001), Physicians for Human Rights Tools and Resources


Improving patient–provider communication: insights from interpreters

Hudelson, Patricia. (2005) in Family Practice 2005; 22: 311–316.

The article focuses on effective patient-provider communication as a way to ensure high quality medical care, and the role interpreters play in translating cultural cues.


Mental Health Tools

Several evaluation and assessment tools have been developed by torture rehabilitation experts. Below is a list of the most common tools. Some of these have been translated, but not all translations have been validated.  
Please contact the appropriate organization to learn more about each tool and for permission to use the tools.

Mental Health First Aid Kit

SAMHSA’s Division of Prevention, Traumatic Stress and Special Programs has compiled a very useful compliation of mental health resources in this Mental Health First Aid Kit. 

Evaluating Refugee Mental Health & Screening Follow-Up

Dr. Vukovich (CVT), in collaboration with Dr. Patricia Shannon and Raiza Beltran, MPH, of the University of Minnesota, presented this poster at the North American Refugee Health Conference. 

Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS)

CAPS is a highly-regarded instrument developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. A version for children and adolescents is available. The

is also available.

Harvard Trauma Questionnaire

The Harvard Trauma Questionnaire is one of the most-used mental health evaluation tools. It has been translated into Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Japanese, Croatian and Bosnian. The Heartland Alliance's Marjorie Kovler Center has also developed an Arabic version.

Hopkins Symptom Checklist

The Hopkins Symptom Checklist 25 is a common mental health evaluation tool. It was originally developed by Parloff, Kelman, and Frank at Johns Hopkins University, and reduced to its 25-item version by Karl Rickels. Bosnian, Cambodian, Croatian, Japanese, Laotian, and Vietnamese are also available. colleagues at the Heartland Alliance's Marjorie Kovler Center (5 HSCL 25- Arabic), and the International Counseling & Community Services at LCSNW (Arabic_3_Hopkins CL25_Final) have developed Arabic versions.

Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale

The Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (PDS) is a 49-item self-report measure recommended for use in clinical or research settings to measure severity of PTSD symptoms related to a single identified traumatic event. 


The RHS-15 is a tool for screening refugees for emotional distress and mental health. The RHS-15 was developed in a community public health setting to be an efficient and effective way to sensitively detect the range of emotional distress common across refugee groups. Click here for more information.