Peer Support Groups: Evaluating a Culturally Grounded, Strengths-Based Approach for Work With Refugees
Many refugees will face unique socio-emotional stressors before, during, and after resettling in their new home country. The program presented herein focuses on the use of para-professionals, peer educators, from within refugee communities to build upon the Center for Torture and Trauma Survivors Clubhouse model. Group leaders seek to provide supports that will: 1) decrease feelings of isolation; 2) build community networks and; 3) increase feelings of empowerment within the community. To accurately represent the fluidity of the refugee population in this metropolitan region, background is presented on an established refugee population from Iraq and a more recent influx of refugees of Bhutan (ethnic Nepali). The juxtaposition of the two groups underscores the importance of presenting a dynamic program that is peer-led to provide the supports necessary to acclimate to their new environment. Program evaluation results from groups run in 2016-2017 indicate that the groups have been successful in helping participants make friends, get information, become more independent, and feel better about life in America. Additionally, participants report a significantly higher number of individuals who they can “talk to about problems or worries” and connect to with a sense of trust within their ethnic community. Finally, the utility of other therapeutic and support processes, such as horticultural and expressive arts therapies, are discussed apropos work with refugee populations.
Alegría, M., Mulvaney-Day, N., Woo, M., Torres, M., Gao, S., Oddo, V. (2007). Correlates of past-year mental health use among Latinos: Results from the National Latino and Asian American Study. American Journal of Public Health, 97, 76-83.
A.R.T. (Art for Refugees in Transition). (2017). About A.R.T. Art for Refugees in Transition. Retrieved from http://www.artforrefugees.org/about.html
Broadhead, R., Heckathorn, D., Altice, P., et al. (2002). Increasing drug users' adherence to HIV treatment: results of a peer-driven intervention feasibility study. Social Science and Medicine, 55(2), 235-246.
Cheung, B., Chudek, M., & Heine, S. (2011). Evidence for a sensitive period for acculturation: Younger immigrants report acculturating at a faster rate. Psychological Science, 22(2), 147-152. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40984621
Coholic, D. (2010). Arts activities for children and young people in need: Helping children to develop mindfulness, spiritual awareness and self-esteem. London and Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Cole, A. & Blythe, B. (2010). Mentoring as an alternative to therapy for immigrant and refugee youth. Revista de Asistenta Sociala, 9, 149-156.
Davis, C. (2014) Maithil Women’s Tales: Storytelling on the Nepal–India Border. Urbana: University of Illinois
Drozdek, B. & Bolwerk, N. (2010). Evaluation of group therapy with traumatized asylum seekers and refugees- the Den Bosch model, Traumatology, 16(4), 117-127.
Felsenstein, R. (2013). From uprooting to replanting: On post-trauma group music therapy for pre-school children. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 22(1), 69-85.
Fischhoff, A. (1986). Birth to three: A self-help program for new parents. Eugene, Oregon: Castalina.
Fischman, Y., & Ross, J. (1990) Group treatment of exiled survivors of torture. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 60, 135-142
Garcia-Preto, N. (2005). Latino families: An overview. In McGoldrick, M., Giordano, J., & Garcia-Preto, N. (Eds.), Ethnicity & Family Therapy (153-165). New York: Guilford.
Geltman, P. L., Augustyn, M., Barnett, E.D., Klass, P.E. and Groves, B.M. (2000) .War trauma experience and behavioral screening of Bosnian refugee children resettled in
Massachusetts. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 21, 255-261
Graves-Alcorn, S. L. & Green, E. J. (2014). The expressive arts therapy continuum: History and theory. In E. J. Green & A. A. Drewes (Eds.), Integrating expressive arts and play therapy with children and adolescents (pp. 1-16). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Green, E. J., & Myrick, A. C. (2014). Treating complex trauma in adolescents: A phase-based, integrative approach for play therapists. International Journal of Play Therapy, 23(3), 131-145.
Kira, I., Ahmed, A., Wasim, F., Mahmoud, V., Colrain, J., & Rai, D. (2011). Group therapy for refugees and torture survivors: Treatment model innovations. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 62(1), 69-88.
Kira, I., Ahmed, A., Mahmoud, M & Wassim F. (2010). Group therapy model for refugee and torture survivors, Torture, 20(2), 108-113.
ANONYMOUS (2015) Bhutanese Community Support Group, City, State: Group Observer.
ANONYMOUS (2016a) Iraqi Community Support Group-May 29, City, State: Group Observer.
ANONYMOUS (2016b) Iraqi Community Support Group-July 31, City, State: Group Observer.
ANONYMOUS (2016c) Bhutanese Community Support Group-January 10, City, State: Group Observer.
ANONYMOUS (2016d) Bhutanese Community Support Group-January 9, City, State: Group Observer.
ANONYMOUS (2016e) Congolese Community Support Group-October 14, City, State: Group Observer.
ANONYMOUS (2016f) Sudanese Community Support Group-February 6, City, State: Group Observer.
Karcher, M., Kuperminc, G., Portwood, S., Sipe, C. & Taylor, A. (2006). Mentoring programs: A framework to inform program development, research, and evaluation. Journal of Community Psychology, 34, 709-725.
Kaslow, F. (2014). Intervening with immigrant families: An integrative systems perspective. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 25, 177-191.
Kim, S. (2013). Re-discovering voice: Korean immigrant women in-group music therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 40, 428-435.
Lubin, H., Loris, M., Burt, J. et al. (1998) Efficacy of psychoeducational group therapy in reducing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder among multiply traumatized women. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155, 1172-1177
Lustig, S.L., Kia-Keating, M., Grant Knight, W., Geltman, P., Ellis, H., Kinzie, D., Keane, T.
and Saxe, G.N. (2004) .Review of child and adolescent refugee mental health. Journal of
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 43, 1, 24-36.
McDowell, T., Libal, K., & Brown, A. L. (2012). Human Rights in the Practice of Family Therapy: Domestic Violence, a Case in Point. Journal Of Feminist Family Therapy, 24(1), 1-23. doi:10.1080/08952833.2012.629129
MENTOR (2009). Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth Toolkit. Retrieved on June 8,
Miller, K. (1999). Rethinking a familiar model: Psychotherapy and the mental health of refugees. Journal of Contemporary Psychiatry, 29, 283-306.
Nickerson, A., Bryant, R., Steel, Z., Silove, D. & Brooks, R., (2010). The impact of fear for family on mental health in a resettled Iraqi refugee community, Journal of Psychiatric Research, 44, 229-235.
Obradovic, J., Tirado-Strayer, N., & Leu, J. (2013). The importance of family and friend relationships for the mental health of Asian immigrant young adults and their nonimmigrant peers. Research in Human Development, 10(2), 163–183.
Porter, M. & Haslam, N. (2005). Predisplacement and post displacement factors associated with mental health of refugees and internally displaced persons: A meta-analysis. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 294, 602-612.
Raphaely, M. (2004) Garden Theory [PDF document]. Retrieved from Freedom from Torture site: http://www.freedomfromtorture.org/document/publication/5760
Ringold, S., Burke, A., & Glass, R. M. (2005). Refugee mental health. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 294, 646.
Rosseau C., Mekki-Berrada A., Moreau S. (2001). Trauma and extended separation from
family among Latin American and African refugees in Montreal. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 64, 40–59.
Simich L., Hamilton H., Baya B. (2006). Mental distress, economic hardship and expectations of life in Canada among Sudanese newcomers. Transcultural
Psychiatry, 43, 418–444.
Solanki, B. (2013) Personal interview.
Steel, Z., Silove, D., Brooks, R., Momartin, S., Alzuhairi, B, Susljik, I. (2006). Impact of immigration detention and temporary protection on the mental health of refugees.
British Journal of Psychiatry, 188, 58–64.
Stiles, W.B. (2002) Session evaluation questionnaire: Structure and use. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55 10-12.
Strand, V., Popescu, M., Way, I. & Jones, A. (2017). Building field agencies’ capacity to prepare staff and social work students for evidence-based trauma treatments, Families in Society, 98(1), 45-56.
Thomas, L., Clarke, T. & Kroliczak, A. (2008). Implementation of peer support demonstration project for HIV+ Caribbean immigrants: A descriptive paper, Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 6, 526-544.
Turner, S., Bowie, C., Dunn, G., Shapo, L., Yule, W. (2003). Mental health of Kosovan Albanian refugees in the UK. British Journal of Psychiatry, 182, 444–448..
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2010). Convention and protocol relating to the status of refugees. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf
Watters, C. (2001). Emerging paradigms in the field of mental health care of refugees. Social Science and Medicine, 52, 1709-1718.
Webel, A., Okonsky, J., Trompeta, J., & Holzemer, W. (2010). A systematic review of the effectiveness of peer-based interventions on health-related behaviors in adults. American Journal of Public Health, 100 (2), 247.
Yalom, I. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy. New York City, NY: Basic Books.
Copyright to works published in Advances in Social Work is retained by the author(s).