Addressing Behavioral Health Disparities for Somali Immigrants Through Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Led by Community Health Workers

J Immigr Minor Health. 2017 Feb;19(1):187-193. doi: 10.1007/s10903-015-0338-2.


To test the feasibility and acceptability of implementing an evidence-based, peer-delivered mental health intervention for Somali women in Minnesota, and to assess the impact of the intervention on the mental health of those who received the training. In a feasibility study, 11 Somali female community health workers were trained to deliver an 8-session cognitive behavioral therapy intervention. Each of the trainers recruited 5 participants through community outreach, resulting in 55 participants in the intervention. Self-assessed measures of mood were collected from study participants throughout the intervention, and focus groups were conducted. The 55 Somali women who participated recorded significant improvements in mood, with self-reported decreases in anxiety and increases in happiness. Focus group data showed the intervention was well received, particularly because it was delivered by a fellow community member. Participants reported gaining skills in problem solving, stress reduction, and anger management. Participants also felt that the intervention helped to address some of the stigma around mental health in their community. Delivery of cognitive behavioral therapy by a community health workers offered an acceptable way to build positive mental health in the Somali community.

Keywords: Community based; Community health worker; Disparities; Immigrant; Mental health; Somali.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Anxiety / ethnology
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / organization & administration*
  • Community Health Workers / organization & administration*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Islam
  • Mental Health / ethnology*
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • Social Stigma
  • Somalia / ethnology