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Refugee Experiences of Counselling and Psychotherapy Open Access


Other title
counselling or psychotherapy
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Marusiak, Christopher W.
Supervisor and department
Merali, Noorfarah (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Buck, George (Educational Psychology)
Leroy, Carol (Elementary Education)
Hayward, Denyse (Educational Psychology)
Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology
Counselling Psychology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This study explored former refugee clients’ perspectives of psychotherapy, namely their reasons for seeking counselling, conceptualization of their presenting problems, experiences in psychotherapy, and aspects of counselling that were considered helpful in facilitating therapeutic change. Eliciting client perspectives added a critical element to the ongoing discourse regarding helpful therapeutic processes among refugees, which has been largely dominated by theorists, researchers and practitioners rather than actual service utilizers. Four refugees (1 from Zimbabwe, 1 from Nigeria, and 2 from Bosnia-Herzegovina) participated in in-depth interviews in this qualitative interpretive inquiry. Refugees were recruited from settlement agencies and refugee treatment centres. The participants had diverse migration trajectories and experiences and had resided in Canada for a minimum of three years. Each had participated in long-term counselling which addressed issues relating specifically to their pre-migration or resettlement experiences. Since interpretive inquiry is an emergent design, it appeared most effective to represent participants’ interview disclosures and their ideas about counselling through detailed narratives and analysis of these narratives. Several themes emerged from this analysis and were grouped into four categories. Therapeutic Goals highlighted the importance of client-congruent treatment goals to assist in restabilizing the client’s life through symptom relief as well as by addressing immediate concerns and life challenges. Therapeutic Tasks were the tasks perceived to be helpful in attaining these goals, which included looking at the past, directive interventions including advocacy, advice and direct assistance with key life tasks, and developing confidence for the future. The importance of strong Therapeutic Relationships was emphasized by each participant, and was developed through mutual understanding, a positive interpersonal connection and sharing expertise to overcome challenges. Finally, a Counselling Setting which is both accessible and safe was reported as helpful. Clinical implications of this research included recommendations for organizations (including establishing the credibility of the program within the refugee community; fostering contacts within the community; maintaining continuity of care and providing easy access to the program) as well as recommendations for therapy (including the importance of addressing continuing resettlement/safety needs; providing a directive, needs-based approach; providing flexible treatment options; and communicating empathy).
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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