A group-based approach to stabilisation and symptom management in a phased treatment model for refugees and asylum seekers

Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2013 Dec 20;4. doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.21407. eCollection 2013.


Background: Traumatised asylum seekers and refugees may present with significant and complex mental health problems as a result of prolonged, extreme, and multiple traumatic events. This is further complicated by ongoing complex social circumstances.

Concepts: In our work at the Traumatic Stress Clinic (TSC), the understanding afforded by the concept of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) together with the related notion of a phased treatment model, provides a useful framework for organising our work with this population.

Clinical applications: An explication of complex PTSD as it applies to our client group is presented, followed by a description of our phased treatment model and an outline of the core principles, which guide our clinical approach. Our symptom management and stabilisation groups have been developed and refined over time and draw on techniques from a variety of cognitive behavioural therapies. These are described in some detail with illustrative clinical case vignettes.

Conclusion: This paper concludes with some reflections on the challenges inherent to working with this complex client group.

Keywords: complex PTSD; phased treatment model; refugees; stabilisation.