A systematic review of psychosocial interventions for adult refugees and asylum seekers

Author(s): Rachel H. TRIBE ; Kyra-Verena SENDT ; Derek K. TRACY



Background: Europe is in the midst of the largest refugee migration since the Second World War; there is an urgent need to provide an updated systematic review of the current best evidence for managing mental distress in refugee populations.

Aims: The aim of this review is to provide an exhaustive summary of the current literature on psychosocial interventions, both trauma- and non-trauma-focused, for refugee populations experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depressive or anxiety symptoms. To produce recommendations for future research and current clinical practice.

Method: Searches were conducted in PubMed, PsychINFO (Hosted by Ovid), PILOTS and Social Services Abstracts; 5305 articles were screened and 40 were included.

Results: This review found medium to high quality evidence supporting the use of narrative exposure therapy (NET). A lack of culturally adapted treatments was apparent and there was less evidence to support standard cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and multidisciplinary treatments.

Conclusion: NET produced positive outcomes in refugees from a diverse range of backgrounds and trauma types. There is a general dearth of research in all intervention types: further research should include more “real-world” multidisciplinary interventions that better model clinical practice. Recommendations for evaluating local need, and creating a culturally sensitive workforce are discussed.


Refugee, asylum seeker, intervention, psychological, review, PTSD, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic

Tags: Europe, Asylum Seekers, Refugees, Adults, PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Traumatic life events, Psychosocial support, Intervention, Transcultural approach, Literature review

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