Interview with Mary Reissinger, Psy D.
Dr. Reissinger is a Psychology Postdoctoral Fellow specializing in human trafficking at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Trafficking Program at Ben Taub. She agreed to be interviewed and share her experience providing mental health services to trafficked persons.
"From the start, I was drawn to this position because it afforded me the opportunity to fight against a traumatic, criminal, and egregious human rights violation by helping to protect a particularly vulnerable and marginalized group of people. For the past ten years I have provided mental health treatment to diverse, underserved populations in both a clinical health and forensic capacity; I have long since felt compelled to serve my community and advocate for the rights of others."
"On an average day you will find me working on the Ben Taub inpatient psychiatric unit administering evaluations or conducting individual, trauma-informed psychotherapy sessions. On other days I can be found in the emergency center responding to referrals to screen a patient for human trafficking. I also attend meetings and trainings in the community, collect data for future research, and counsel survivors in our outpatient clinic."
"Overall, my position involves human trafficking identification, treatment, training, advocacy, community outreach, and research. My institution is about to roll-out a pilot study analyzing our newly developed human trafficking e-learning training module for medical professionals within the Harris Health System. Using a Randomized Control Trial, we plan to measure the efficacy of this training module prior to its dissemination system-wide.
"I maintain a relationship with multiple partner organizations city-wide to connect survivors with numerous community-based resources to aid in their recovery; one such resource, is our program’s very own outpatient mental health clinic for survivors of trafficking. Constant efforts are being made by our program to form additional partnerships, conceptualize more research endeavors, and discover (or create) new avenues to better meet the needs of this underserved and highly vulnerable population."
"Research indicates that due to the insidious power and control tactics utilized by traffickers and the various environmental stressors trafficked people endure, one would expect to treat a wide spectrum of mental health symptoms (i.e., depressive, anxious, paranoid, substance use, and trauma or stress-related disorders. Psychological research has consistently shown that the therapeutic alliance is the primary impetus for promoting change behavior in patients."
"My advice to future physicians would be to prioritize establishing a relationship based on trust, respect, and transparency. When you suspect someone may have been victimized (e.g. assaulted, molested, or exploited), just begin by engaging them in casual, non-threatening conversation and build up to carefully (and respectfully) asking them a few screening questions. Be prepared to provide help by having your resources on hand."
"Generally, aim to reduce, or eliminate, factors which contribute to their risk relevant behavior, instability, or level of vulnerability; strive to promote increased safety, stability, and self-determination in the life of the patient. Most importantly, remain steadfast and trust your clinical judgment and intuition. Human trafficking operations purposefully hide in plain sight; traffickers are savvy, and victims often feel totally helpless. Recognize the red flags; respond to the situation, then refer the trafficked person to either a hotline, specialist, or an anti-trafficking organization."