Do resettlement variables predict psychiatric treatment outcomes in a sample of asylum-seeking survivors of torture?

Author(s): David WHITSETT ; Martin F. SHERMAN


Mental health clinicians who work with asylum seekers provide services to patients who face stressful everyday living conditions. However, little is known about how these problems potentially impact psychiatric treatment within these populations. The purpose of this study was thus to examine whether resettlement factors predict outcomes of a mental health intervention for a sample of asylum-seeking survivors of torture.

The study included data from a US outpatient clinic that specialized in treating asylum-seeking survivors of torture. Patients (primarily from Iraq, Afghanistan and African Countries) were evaluated on demographic factors at intake and psychiatric symptoms throughout the course of treatment.

Patients experienced significant reductions in depression, anxiety and trauma symptoms, although symptoms still remained near or above clinical thresholds. Stable, uncrowded housing conditions significantly predicted lower depression, anxiety and trauma symptoms at follow-up.

These findings support the hypotheses that individuals seeking asylum within the United States who have survived torture can benefit from psychiatric treatment and emphasize the importance of stable living conditions in improving treatment effectiveness. This suggests the need for further research on social predictors of treatment outcomes, as well as the need for clinicians and policymakers to target improved housing as a potentially important tool to reduce psychiatric problems related to torture and forced migration.


Keywords Asylum seekers, refugees, depression, PTSD, outcomes, housing

Tags: United States, Asylum seekers, Refugees, Torture, Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, Treatment, Housing, Resettlement

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