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Dec 17, 2018

In this podcast episode, Gordon has a conversation with Cecilia Briseno, LCSW and her unique niche of working with clients who are navigating the immigration process. First, Cecilia explains her background and what initially inspired her to create a niche. The two then go in-depth discussing the most common evaluation for clinicians to utilize, the hardship evaluation. Later, Cecilia explains the other types of evaluations, the training she provides for clinicians, and tips for anyone wanting to get into this type of work.

Meet Cecilia Briseno, LCSW

Cecilia Briseno

Cecilia Briseno is a bilingual Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice, Bright Side Family Therapy, in Arlington, TX. Cecilia has a total of 17 years of experience in social work in a variety of settings and roles. Cecilia received her BSW and MSSW from the University of Texas at Arlington. It was during her graduate internship that she studied the model of therapy that she still uses today, Solution Focused Therapy (SFT). Following the completion of her master’s program, Cecilia went on to study Marriage and Family Therapy in a doctoral program at Texas Woman’s University, which helped her to broaden her knowledge of SFT and family systems. Cecilia has found her niche in working with couples primarily while also working with families navigating through the immigration process.

When appropriate, Cecilia provides evaluations explaining the hardships they face when separated from their loved ones. She is now also providing training for clinicians interested in working with immigrants. By first having her client’s paint a detailed picture of their desired future, Cecilia is then able to help them explore past and present successes, no matter how small, to start attaining the future they wish. The beauty of the approach Cecilia uses is that this process frequently helps the client to see that they are closer to their desired future than they realized, increasing hope and motivation.

Hardship Evaluation

The primary evaluation is an extreme hardship waiver. This evaluation is necessary when a resident is married to someone that is undocumented. In most cases, if the undocumented spouse returned to their country, it would cause financial hardship. For example, if the spouse took care of their children, then the partner would have to start paying for childcare. Typically the man is undocumented, and the wife is a citizen with young kids. Parents can request on behalf of their children and vice versa. Depending on the attorney, Cecilia has to adjust the evaluation accordingly.

Immigration Evaluation Boot Camp

Anywhere that hits the border; there is an increasing number of people that need these evaluations. Cecilia provides a four-hour long course on the extreme hardship waiver. Also, she provides a boot camp that is two full days covering five different types of assessments. It would be best if you were individually licensed, interested in working with this population, and hopefully bilingual. The course goes over intake calls, forms you’ll need to use, the formation of the evaluations, building relationships with the attorneys, and any follow-ups. Everything you would need is included in this boot camp. The next day after the boot camp, you can start offering the service.

Tips For Clinicians

Flexibility and compassion are essential for a clinician to work with this demographic. With so many unknowns and the clients often do not get much support from the community. Clinicians who work with families do well with this group. Very quickly you learn the entire family is useful for the evaluation. Cecilia often interviews the whole family to complete her evaluations.

Cecilia is strictly private pay. Most clients that come to her do not have insurance. Also, Cecilia tends to charge on the lower end because she wants her clients to be able to afford her services. Your clients know if you have the best intentions in mind or not because you’ll be welcoming and understanding to their needs. If a client sees your passion, they will work with you for the price and timing.

Five Types of Evaluations

  1. Hardship: When a resident is married to someone that is undocumented.
  2. U Visa: An undocumented person was a victim of a crime here in the United States. They need to stay to deal with the trauma and assist with the criminal investigation.
  3. VAWA: Victims of domestic violence. The abuser is not willing to help the undocumented person to fix their papers.
  4. Asylum: Fleeing their country for reasons of persecution.
  5. Cancellation of Removal: Already have orders to leave the country and it’s a time-sensitive situation. The client has to explain the repercussions that would happen if they were forced to leave the country.

Political Climate

With the current political climate, there are more hoops to jump through, and things are changing quickly. Information needs to be altered on evaluations, and Cecilia has to see her clients more often. There was a decrease of people coming for the evaluations based on fear. Once more people started getting deported and stopped, clients have been getting their papers fixed.

Resources Mentioned

Hardship Evaluation Training

Bright Side Family Therapy

Therapy Notes

Practice Solutions

Brighter Vision

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Meet Gordon Brewer, MEd, LMFT

L Gordon Brewer

Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog.He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer and writer.  PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast on iTunesStitcher and Google Play. Follow us on Twitter @therapistlearn and Pinterest “Like” us on Facebook.