Myth, Memory, and Meaning: Understanding and Treating Adolescents Experiencing Forced Migration
Refugee adolescents present a unique challenge to treatment. In their desire to be part of their new country, they often split off the formative years of their development. This can lead them to feel disconnected and disoriented, but also as though their world is in fact built on lies. They often come to treatment following enactments that make them appear tough, hardened, and hard to reach, and which continue in the consulting room. They need to connect the world that they left, the world that live in now, and their own private experiences of love and hate in order to form an integrated identity. This discussion explores aspects of the refugee narrative of psychoanalysis to help to illuminate the tasks necessary to co-create a meaningful narrative with refugee adolescent patients. It suggests ways to connect to the refugee experience and hear the young patients as they move between the political and the personal, the official and the familial, to understand themselves and return to the developmental task of creating an adult identity.