and debriefed workers in Iraq, Kuwait and other war zones
following suicides and other traumatic events.
He is also an active member of APA Div. 18 (Psychologists in
Public Service), serving as its president last year. The division’s
focus on sharing psychological expertise for the public good
“very much fits with what I’m doing here,” he says. “It is
extremely rewarding to do my part to assist American staff
working in a very challenging environment and to support the
mission of the U.S. government to bring order and stability to
Most of Norton’s work takes place at the embassy itself,
where he provides mental health services and seminars for
embassy staff. When circumstances allow, Norton also provides
counseling and training for civilian and military personnel in
the field. Trips can get canceled at the last minute because of
the threat level, and when he does go out, he dons a helmet and
flak jacket and is escorted by military and/or security personnel.
On a more limited basis, he consults with U.S. agencies working
with Afghans to help modernize their prison system, and he
consults with an agency at the embassy developing procedures
for providing crisis mental health debriefings if American staff
are taken hostage or held captive.
“Fortunately, that’s a rare occurrence, but it’s always a risk in
active and chaotic war zones,” he says.
Life in the compound
Given the dangers of living in a war zone, most of Norton’s
time is spent in the relatively small but highly fortified embassy
compound in northern Kabul. The compound serves as a
small city for the State Department personnel, who include
diplomats, U.S. Agency for International Development staff and
international law-enforcement personnel. About 300 Afghan
citizens — who live outside the embassy and put themselves
at some risk of terrorist threats and intimidation working