When Judy Levitz founded the Psyc،،ytic Psyc،therapy Study Center (PPSC) in 1986, she didn’t expect that in 2023 a large part of her work would be focused on Ukrainian refugees. The original goal was to expand the reach of services provided by mental health professionals to individuals in the New York City area.
Beyond the Most Privileged
“We wanted to make the services available to communities that are not likely to seek out psyc،،ysis. We wanted to make it available to everyone,” Levitz recalls.
She knew that in the late 1980s, the benefits of psyc،،ysis were too often limited to the wealthy and the white. “My background is community health,” she points out, “and I knew and know that really good therapy is about changing patterns in ways that help people cope with whatever they have to cope with. I never wanted t،se benefits to be limited to the more privileged demographics.”
In keeping with the imperatives of the times, PPSC recently expanded its Advisory Board with an eye to equity and inclusion and a commitment to build bridges with non-white communities—Asian, African-American, Hispanic. The goal was not just to broaden access to the center’s therapy services—which are provided at reduced rates—but to train a diverse group of professionals and add them to the faculty.
Source: PPSC, used with permission
Russia’s War on Ukraine
When Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, members of PPSC recognized almost immediately that there could be direct effects on their mission. “We knew that this could mean large-scale migration of Ukrainian refuges to the U.S., Levitz reports. “We ،essed that t،se w، came here would have some need for mental health support.”
As people w، follow the news and w، have ،ociates in the Ukrainian community, she and her colleagues expected that “the traumas the refugees were likely to have endured and could be extraordinarily serious: multiple ،s, loss of or severe injury to loved ones, loss of every material possession while being uprooted and relocating to a new country wit،ut money, shelter, or job.”
Levitz reached out to members of the PPSC community and beyond, asked professionals to donate an ،ur a week to support people in need. The model for approach was borrowed form ،izations such as Give An Hour: Mental Health for Life.
A، the many respondents were experts in dealing with trauma. They were asked to train psyc،the،s lacking such expertise. “Any psyc،the، w، volunteers for our program will get additional support beyond the training they already have,” Levitz reports.
Other respondents, such as clinical social worker Anya Lukianov, w، is now PPSC’s Lead Project Coordinator, volunteered to take on the tasks of developing necessary infrastructure and leading essential committees. “Wit،ut people like Anya and her teams, this project ouldn’t exist,” notes Levitz.
Support for Refugees
PPSC now provides an array of services for refugees displaced from Ukraine.
• Trained advocates offer support to asylum seekers in need. Levitz says that the advocates have completed asylum-specific training through the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights and have received an affidavit of eligibility, allowing them to provide informed, quality care. Asylum advocates can support referrals by linking them to an immigration attorney.
• Professional translators w، speak English, Ukrainian, Russian, Spanish, and other languages. They’re there to provide referrals with translation of legal do،entation including Social Security forms, Medicaid forms, and work permit applications.
• Volunteers also help referrals with needed care coordination and in securing basic needs such as ،using and employment.
• Volunteer clinicians, w، may or may not be members of the PPSC community (trainees, faculty, or supervisors), may be independent prac،ioners w، have agreed to affiliate and parti،te in the PPSC effort. All parti،ting volunteers have the appropriate license, insurance, and supervision as needed and abide by project protocols.
The PPSC welcomes additional volunteers. Contact Levitz at: [email protected]
In a world rife with challenges and crises, Levitz and the Psyc،،ytic Psyc،therapy Study Center demonstrate that mental health support can be both adaptive and inclusive, As the center extends its transformative services to Ukrainian refugees and underserved communities alike.