Migration is currently under investigation. On the one hand questions are raised as to whether immigrants are assimilating the norms and values of their new country quickly enough. On the other hand, in a clinical context, it is observed that mental illness when encountered in immigrants is culture-specific. However, these observations cannot be interpreted without taking account of the double context in which the immigrant is embedded: that of their native country and now the host nation. The issue of “identity” and the social context in which it derives plays a crucial role in discourse about immigrants. The objectifying public debate about migration has clear clinical repercussions at an individual level and there is a need to reframe these cultural representations from a psychoanalytic perspective. This means that the function of religious speech also deserves our attention during a cure with an immigrant. A clinical illustration of a Muslim in psychotherapy clarifies how the coordinates of a Lacanian thinking can function as a universal language to understand the singular logic of the subject.
This paper examines what psychoanalysis can say about migration, and what it means for psychotherapeutic work with migrants and refugees. Topics addressed include trauma, mourning, depression, melancholia and identity formation. The refugee or migrant faces not only traumatic events and loss experiences from their home country and during flight, but also unexpected phenomena in the country of arrival. Desubjectivization, the decoupling of a language and its effect, given the fact that the unconscious is structured like language, mourning work and the risk of melancholy, the interruption of the Name-of-the-Father, being mirrored and the effect on one’s identity. The migrant is challenged to process trauma and to incorporate it into the framework of life. He must perform mourning work, build a new (shared) Symbolic, and achieve social and psychological integrity. In an analysis, there is the opportunity to be heard, to hear yourself speak, instead of being under scrutiny, to face things, convey movement, to break, and to regain one’s own subjectivity.