Brighton & Hove CBT
Brighton & Hove | Sussex

Brighton Exiled/Refugee Trauma Service


BRIGHTON EXILED/REFUGEE TRAUMA SERVICES (BERTS) has been entered onto the Register of Charities with the Registered Charity Number 1188586. BERTS was formerly known as the Sanctuary Project.

Out of Office

Brighton and Hove CBT and Brighton Exiled/Refugee Trauma Service is closed for Easter from Tuesday 4 June until Monday 24 June 2024 inclusive and we will not be reading email messages, answering texts or collecting voicemail messages during this time.

Please do not call our telephone number as we are out of the country and not answering this service whilst on leave.

If you have an NHS referral to BERTS, kindly resend your referral after Monday 24 June.

If you are enquiring about private 1:1 cognitive behavioural psychotherapy for yourself, there is some availability in early July and we will respond to you on Monday 24 June.

If you have an urgent clinical matter to communicate to BERTS kindly email

If you need any urgent help around mental health, please reach out to these services:

  • Mental Health Rapid Response Service (MHRRS)
    0300 304 0078
    24/7 support service if you feel you are in a mental health crisis. You can contact the service directly or health professionals and carers can ring for advice.
  • Sussex Mental Healthline
    0800 0309 500
    A 24/7 telephone service offering support and information to anyone experiencing mental health problems including stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Staying Well Space (SWS) Brighton
    0800 023 6475, choose option #3
    Out-of-hours mental health crisis prevention service providing psychosocial support and crisis prevention planning. Individuals can phone the service directly to self-refer for support when they feel they aren't able to cope or feel they are headed towards a crisis point.
  • The Samaritans
    116 123
    A 24/7 confidential listening service providing emotional support for anyone in crisis. Their number is free from landlines and mobiles.

If you have another pressing health problem call 111 for advice. In an emergency, dial 999 or go directly to A&E where there is 24 hour mental health support and a duty psychiatrist.

Brighton Exiled/Refugee Trauma Service (BERTS) logo

BERTS takes referrals from Social Services, local statutory services and volunteer and third sector organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers.

We often have a waiting list for treatment which can be up to 6 months.

Whilst patients are waiting for trauma psychological treatment, BERTS can also offer a support worker befriending scheme, as this can be several months. Clients meet regularly with a befriender who can help with cultural issues, form filling, doctor’s appointments, literacy support, and offers more general support (but not psychotherapy).

Research summary
Summary of research into An Exploration of Asylum Seekers' mental-health needs versus services provided within Brighton and Hove by Tessa Axelrod, BERTS Researcher and support worker.

About the project

BERTS is a dedicated trauma service hosted by Brighton & Hove CBT, for refugees, asylum seekers and destitute migrants in Sussex. BERTS is a no-cost service. It is a purely voluntary service run for the benefit of the community.

We offer free specialist trauma counselling and psychotherapy to local people to help them come to terms with their relocation in the UK, after what can be very difficult experiences for themselves and their families in their countries of origin. All of our staff are unpaid and volunteer their time for free.

Refugees, asylum seekers and destitute migrants are much more likely to suffer from mental health problems than the general population, as a result of traumatic experiences. Migration itself can also cause significant mental health problems, in cultural and social readjustment, and in facing the isolation and sometimes poverty that being alone in a new country can cause. Depression and anxiety, and serious illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, are very common with this group, and NHS provision of care is limited and local NHS services are overstretched.

Refugees, asylum seekers and destitute migrants often come to the UK after experiencing terrible life histories, and the asylum process itself can provoke further mental suffering, as conditions for asylum seekers and refugees in this country are very difficult, particularly if they have been kept in poor housing conditions or in a detention centre. Refugees also can experience several last minute displacement to strange towns, and also local racism whilst in the UK, which makes things even more challenging. Many refugees have a real sense of fear about the possibility that their asylum claim might be refused and find themselves isolated and separated from loves ones and unable to cope.

Therapists offer to donate some of their clinical hours every week to the project, and local organisations have kindly donated premises. The clinical referrals and liaison is also done by volunteer practitioners. This means that we can provide mental health support for free to qualifying service users.

Who is BERTS?

Brighton Exiled/Refugee Trauma Service key personnel are:

Chair: Sally R Munt
Trustee: Colin Blowers
Trustee: Reem A O Abushawareb
Trustee: Tessa Axelrod
Trustee: Lizzy West

What kind of treatment can I access?

Most of our psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors work with Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, and EMDR, they also have expertise in working with trauma and survivors of torture, sexual and political violence.

We expect normally treatment to last from 12-26 weekly sessions, based on your clinical assessment, although under certain circumstances our team may agree that this can be extended.

Do I Qualify?

You are eligible for free psychotherapy treatment if you are a refugee or asylum seeker.

Normally, you need to be over 16 years of age, although we can provide support to those younger than this in exceptional cases and if there is clinical availability. You need to have lived in the UK for less than 10 years.

Interpreter Services

Unfortunately we do not yet have funding to provide an interpreter service so all sessions are conducted in English. Psychotherapy with an interpreter present can also be problematic in terms of clients feeling safe enough to disclose sensitive information. Occasionally, social services are able to provide an interpreter if the refugee/asylum seeker is a young person receiving support from them.

See also:

Migrant English Project
The Migrant English Project provides free and informal English lessons for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants on Mondays 10.30am until 3.30pm (10:30 – 15:30) at Exeter Street Hall, 16-17 Exeter Street, Brighton BN1 5PG.


Sussex Interpreting Services
Sussex Interpreting Services offers a range of support services which are free to all refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. These services include community interpreting, bilingual advocacy, a health promotion project, and translation.

Telephone: 01273 702005 | 07811 459315 (for emergencies, always open)
Email: | |
Address: Community Base, 113 Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XG


We do not discuss your referral or your mental health needs with anyone in your community, the Home Office or anyone else, and your information is safe. If there is a risk of harm to yourself, or to others, we would normally inform your doctor or in case of children being at risk, the relevant social service or NSPCC. We would normally discuss first with you if we felt that their was a risk of harm. Our service is completely separate from the Home Office procedures and we do not send any information to them, unless you request it.


All our psychotherapists have an Enhanced DBS check (formerly the CRB check) for working with vulnerable persons. We work to the professional standards, policies and procedures of the BABCP, and uphold NHS standard criteria for careful governance and standards.

Sexual Violence

Many women and men have experienced sexual or gender-based violence as part of their refugee journey. We are sensitive to this, and experienced in understanding the trauma this can cause, and hope to provide a safe space for you to talk about it, if you would like to.

What happens next?

After you have got a referral, we will be in contact with you to arrange an assessment of your needs. Then you will be offered an appointment with one of our therapists, which will usually be at the same time each week. It is important that you keep us up to date with your mobile phone number and address so we can maintain contact. More information about mental health support for refugees can be found in the MIND report.

Useful Links

Refugee Therapy Centre
Brighton Voices in Exile
Refugee Action
The Refugee Council
United Kingdom Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group
Refugee week in Brighton & Hove
Brighton and Hove City of Sanctuary
Brighton and Hove City of Sanctuary Facebook
Local directory of services for refugees and migrants
How to help refugees in Brighton and Hove (

For additional help and support:

Refugee Radio
Refugee Radio provides a weekly support group around mental health, as well as outreach and advice. It also produces radio with refugees and asylum seekers for their stories to be heard.
Address: Community Base, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XG

Sussex Refugee Solidarity
Sussex Refugee Solidarity is a local community support and action group for refugees, set up by parents in Sussex. It is a forum which aims to set out what we can offer to refugees resettling in East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove.

Download a detailed local guide to services for asylum seekers and refugees in the city.

Brighton and Hove Bus Company logo
This project is generously supported by Brighton and Hove Bus Company.

Whilst this project is hosted by BHCBT, the therapy itself is provided independently by the practitioner that is treating you.