Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 245–253 | Cite as

Adapting and Implementing Evidence-Based Interventions for Trauma-Exposed Refugee Youth and Families

  • Brian L. IsaksonEmail author
  • John-Paul Legerski
  • Christopher M. Layne
Original Paper


Refugee youth routinely encounter difficult challenges related to past trauma, loss, and resettlement stressors. The recent surge in refugees resettling in the United States has made it increasingly likely that mental health service providers will receive referrals to work with refugee youth. It is thus essential to prepare the national mental health workforce to provide the best care possible. Although the current evidence base regarding the use of empirically-supported treatments with refugee youth living in Western countries is insufficiently developed to provide authoritative standards for evidence-based practice (EBP), sufficient advances have nevertheless been made to offer evidence-informed suggestions and guidance to practitioners who work with this unique population. We thus focus on three primary considerations for adapting and implementing evidence-based interventions with refugee youth by drawing on the American Psychological Association’s (Am Psychol 61:271–285, 2006) framework for EBP, which integrates (1) the best research available, (2) client characteristics, culture, and preferences; and (3) clinical expertise. We use this framework as a lens to selectively review research pertaining to the refugee youth experience and identify sound therapeutic practices. We recommend key factors to consider when seeking to provide culturally sensitive, developmentally appropriate trauma interventions to this at-risk yet underserved population in real-world settings. We discuss the promise of modularized interventions that integrate both common elements of evidence-based trauma interventions and common therapeutic factors, while also underscoring the importance of addressing extra-therapeutic factors within the broader ecology that can powerfully influence the well-being and functioning of refugee youth and their families.


Refugees Youth Evidence-based practice Trauma Cultural competency Ecological framework 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian L. Isakson
    • 1
    Email author
  • John-Paul Legerski
    • 2
  • Christopher M. Layne
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, MSC09 5030, 1 UNMUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA
  3. 3.UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, and Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral SciencesUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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