Refugee Experiences of Counselling and Psychotherapy

  • Author / Creator
    Marusiak, Christopher W.
  • 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).

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Educational Psychology
  • Specialization
    • Counselling Psychology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Merali, Noorfarah (Educational Psychology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Hayward, Denyse (Educational Psychology)
    • Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)
    • Buck, George (Educational Psychology)
    • Leroy, Carol (Elementary Education)