Since the initiation of its official resettlement program in 1980, the United States has accepted over two million refugees (Brown & Scribner, 2014) from increasingly diverse ethnic, racial, linguistic, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds. The humanitarian focus of the program aims to provide safety for individuals fleeing imminent danger, many of whom have been exposed to violence, armed conflict, and intimidation prior to their arrival in the United States (Thomas, Thomas, Nafees, and Bhugra, 2004). As a result, many of those granted refugee status are at risk for psychological distress that may impact their overall quality of life as well as their ability to integrate into U.S. society. This risk is often exacerbated by stressors experienced during the resettlement period, during which refugees must overcome challenges related to acculturation, discrimination, and structural barriers to integration.
Though refugees use mental health services at significantly lower rates than the non-refugee population (Birman et al., 2008), those who do engage in services often face challenges to receiving effective services. These challenges include the complexity of symptoms refugees experience, the range of stressors present in refugees’ lives that may impede the treatment process, the limited availability of evidence-based practices that can inform clinicians’ treatment planning, and cultural and linguistic barriers to the therapeutic relationship. While researchers have begun accumulating practice-based evidence aimed at understanding how certain therapeutic techniques can be successfully adapted for work with refugee clients (Birman et al., 2005; Beehler et al., 2012), this evidence remains limited, providing little information on the particular impairments refugees face in their day-to-day lives or insight on how clinicians who have been working successfully with refugee populations implement clinical decision-making tactics to help improve clients’ lives and relationships.
SOURCE: Caroline Culbreth Mejía. “Examining the Therapeutic Process with Refugee Youth.” Coral Gables, Florida, May 2019.
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia