Indicators likely to contribute to clinical and functional improvement among survivors of politically-sanctioned torture


  • Martin Hill Associate Director, Research and Evaluation, Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center
  • Mary Lynn Everson Former Senior Director, Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center



torture treatment, holistic, trauma, evaluation, asylum seekers


Introduction: Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center (Kovler Center) is a torture treatment program located in Chicago, Illinois. Established in 1987, Kovler Center provides medical, mental health, and social services, as well as coordination with legal services, to a diverse population of survivors. Historically, Kovler Center used clinical measurement instruments to assess depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress, but staff was challenged with finding the best way to assess and ultimately measure changes in functional domains. The purpose of this paper is to describe (1) the Kovler Center framework, philosophical pillars, and model of treatment; (2) the comprehensive outcome evaluation program, including the Marjorie Kovler Center Well-Being Questionnaire (MKC WBQ); and (3) the results and implications to date. Methods: Kovler Center measured outcome data utilizing three instruments including a well-being tool and supplemented the data with a satisfaction survey. These instruments were administered at intake and re-administered at six-month intervals up to 24 months. Results/Discussion: With nine years of data, Kovler Center can now provide valid and reliable findings in diagnostic and functional changes, with 86.6% of its clients reporting fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, 83.1% reporting fewer symptoms of trauma, and significant improvement in employment status, housing status, and physical health after receiving services for 24 months. Indicators
significantly correlated with clinical improvement at 24 months include stable housing, stable employment, region from where survivors came, number of days between initial assessment and program admittance, number of services (medical, psychological, social) received while in the program, number of medical problems diagnosed with while in the program, and number of psychological problems diagnosed with while in the program. From the Generalized Linear Mixed Models (GLMM) analysis, the total number of psychological problems and whether or not the participant had a secure legal status while in the program were demonstrated to explain the variance in anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Females were more likely to experience depression while in the program compared to males, and participants from the Middle East were more likely to experience symptoms of depression and PTSD compared to participants from Africa. Conclusions: Since, medical, psychological, and social indicators are demonstrated to correlate with or predict clinical outcomes, this highlights the need for comprehensive and holistic treatment programs for survivors of torture.


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How to Cite

Hill, M., & Everson, M. L. (2020). Indicators likely to contribute to clinical and functional improvement among survivors of politically-sanctioned torture. Torture Journal, 29(3), 5–26.