Mental health interventions for traumatized asylum seekers and refugees: What do we know about their efficacy?

Ortal Slobodin, Joop T.V.M. De Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Background: The prevalence of trauma-related problems among refugees and asylum seekers is extremely high due to adverse experiences associated with forced migration. Although the literature presents a considerable number of guidelines and theoretical frameworks for working with traumatized refugees and asylum seekers, the efficacy, feasibility and applicability of these interventions have little empirical evidence. Aims: The purpose of this article is to critically review the literature to provide a rationale for developing culturally sensitive, evidence-based interventions for refugees and asylum seekers. Methods: A literature review integrating research findings on interventions designed especially for traumatized asylum seekers and refugees was conducted. Retained studies had to use some quantitative measurements of post-traumatic stress and to have pre- and post-measurements to evaluate the efficacy of the intervention. Studies included in this review cover a wide variety of interventions, including trauma-focused interventions, group therapy, multidisciplinary interventions and pharmacological treatments. Results: The majority of studies with traumatized refugees and asylum seekers reported positive outcomes of the intervention in reducing trauma-related symptoms. There is evidence to support the suitability of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and narrative exposure therapy (NET) in certain populations of refugees. Other intervention studies are limited by methodological considerations, such as lack of randomization, absence of control group and small samples. Conclusions: This review has again highlighted the shortage of guiding frameworks available to investigators and clinicians who are interested in tailoring interventions to work with refugees and asylum seekers. Theoretical, ethical and methodological considerations for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 3 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Refugees
  • asylum seekers
  • intervention
  • review
  • symptoms
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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