The Wright Institute Sanctuary Project (WISP)

The Wright Institute Sanctuary Project (WISP)

A supplemental practicum (P3 and above) that offers training and clinical experiences for advanced students in the doctoral program, who have an interest in working with immigrant and refugee populations. The primary focus of the program is on provision of culturally competent psychosocial evaluations for clients seeking asylum through our community partners.

We provide comprehensive training in manifestations of trauma, socio-cultural and historical context of forced migration, clinical interviewing, work with interpreters and interdisciplinary collaboration with attorneys, trauma assessment and diagnosis, therapeutic assessment, documenting forensic psychosocial evaluations and principles of liberation psychology. We pay close attention to the impact of secondary traumatization on the clinicians and actively work to mitigate trauma impacts throughout the training year, guiding the clinicians to develop sustainable self-care practices and providing a reflective and supportive space to process their experiences.

We have developed collaborative partnerships with East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Alameda County Unaccompanied Youth Program, Centro Legal de la Raza, and Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings. In the year 2018-2019 we have started developing our outreach and training program as an additional service to our community partners, in which we provide trainings and consultations on trauma-related topics.


Most WISP clients come from four groups of persecuted populations: unaccompanied immigrant youth, Guatemalan Mam Mayans who have experienced persecution targeting them on account of their indigenous identity, individuals who have experienced intimate partner violence, and LGBTQ+ population. A large majority of our clients shave immigrated from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Psychological evaluations are based on: a clinical interview; mental status exam; assessment of trauma, as well as effort and malingering; cultural considerations; diagnostic impressions; and recommendations.

Asylum in the U.S.

According to U.S. law, a refugee is someone who has left their country of origin and is "unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution" due to one of five scenarios including "race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." Asylum seekers are defined as individuals who meet the criteria for refugee status, but have arrived in the U.S. on their own accord in search of safety; therefore, requesting asylum status after they have arrived in the country. If an asylum seeker can prove refugee status by demonstrating one of the above scenarios, they are technically eligible for asylum.


Clients are referred by partner organizations in the Bay Area and fees are then determined through these partnerships.

Program Director:
Robert Deady, Psy.D.

WISP Consultant:
Daniela Kantorova, Psy.D. dkantorova@wi.ed

Director of Clinical Services
Deanna van Ligten, Psy.D.


"It was a really rewarding experience to see how a psychological assessment fits into the immigration process and how it can make a real difference in someone's life."

"I am very glad I had the opportunity to work with the EBSC through the WISP practicum. It is one of the more rewarding experiences I have had during graduate school!"

"Fantastic learning experience, including clinical interviewing and assessment, report writing, program development, and a broader understanding of political and cultural contexts."

"WISP completely embodies the Wright Institute's mission of "Clinicians to Society... The community and learning aspect of WISP, largely created and encouraged by its supervisors, offers a space that focuses not only on providing quality clinical services, but also places an equal focus on reflection about what drives the work we do and how was can stay motivated and empathic even when our cases often involve a high degree of traumatic material. The training space felt very open and supportive from day one, largely because the supervisory team modeled the importance of collaboration and authenticity. For me, joining WISP has provided a model of applying my clinical skills directly to an area of interest the seemed previously out of reach."