Treating PTSD in refugees and asylum seekers within the general health care system. A randomized controlled multicenter study

Behav Res Ther. 2013 Oct;51(10):641-7. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2013.07.002. Epub 2013 Jul 8.


Objective: There has been uncertainty about whether refugees and asylum seekers with PTSD can be treated effectively in standard psychiatric settings in industrialized countries. In this study, Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) was compared to Treatment As Usual (TAU) in 11 general psychiatric health care units in Norway. The focus was on changes in symptom severity and in the diagnostic status for PTSD and depression.

Method: Refugees and asylum seekers fulfilling the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD (N = 81) were randomized with an a-priori probability of 2:1 to either NET (N = 51) or TAU (N = 30). The patients were assessed with Clinician Administered PTSD Scale, Hamilton rating scale for depression and the MINI Neuropsychiatric Interview before treatment, and again at one and six months after the completion.

Results: Both NET and TAU gave clinically relevant symptom reduction both in PTSD and in depression. NET gave significantly more symptom reduction compared to TAU as well as significantly more reduction in participants with PTSD diagnoses. No difference in treatment efficacy was found between refugees and asylum seekers.

Conclusions: The study indicated that refugees and asylum seekers can be treated successfully for PTSD and depression in the general psychiatric health care system; NET appeared to be a promising treatment for both groups.

Trial registration: NCT00218959.

Keywords: Asylum seeker; Narrative Exposure Therapy; PTSD; Randomized controlled trial; Refugee; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Implosive Therapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Norway
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*

Associated data