The Experiences of Counselors Working in Detention Centers for Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

Castellon, Nancy Elena
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Unaccompanied immigrant minors who are housed under the Office of Refugee Resettlement are provided with basic care services including weekly mental health services. However, before counselors enter detention centers for unaccompanied minors, they must first have knowledge and training to work with the vulnerable population and the restrictive setting. The purpose of this study was to understand the shared experiences of counselors who are working in detention facilities in Texas for unaccompanied children. A phenomenological approach was utilized to understand the everyday experiences of the counselors. Ten counselors participated in the study. Their interviews were transcribed and examined individually. Then, a group analysis was conducted. Four main themes were formed with fifteen subthemes: navigating an alternative counseling (restricted goals, rapport through language, non-existent confidentiality, additional roles), in search of answers (feeling unprepared, questioning protocol, internal conflicts), support (the work family, LPC-Supervisor, leadership, relating to the world), and impact on the counselor (counseling skill growth, humbling reward, cultural exploration, burnout and vicarious trauma). The findings suggest implications for practicing counselors, counselor educators, and supervisors.

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Counselor Education, Detention Center, Immigration, Office of Refugee Resettlement, Unaccompanied Children