An exploration of therapeutic work with unaccompanied refugee young people

Prof Doc Thesis

Staite, Patsie Louise 2012. An exploration of therapeutic work with unaccompanied refugee young people. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Pyschology
AuthorsStaite, Patsie Louise
TypeProf Doc Thesis

A review of existing literature indicates a lack of research regarding mental health service provision and therapeutic work with unaccompanied refugee young people, despite studies suggesting numerous concerns and challenges. Furthermore, reviews of mental health service provision for this group point to the need for more research in this area to inform and improve practice. Given the paucity of research, the present study aimed to explore therapists’ accounts of therapeutic work with unaccompanied refugee young people. A social constructionist grounded theory approach was used to analyse data from nine semi-structured interviews carried out with therapists working with these children. Theoretical concepts were constructed to conceptualise a process of ‘responding to children’s needs’ by balancing ‘holding onto’ and ‘putting aside’ models of therapy. These were interwoven with the following three categories: ‘meeting children where they are’, ‘balancing boundaries’ and ‘managing positioning’ in relation to unaccompanied children and the socio-political context of the therapeutic work.
The study drew on the analysis of the data to construct a grounded theory of processes occurring in participants’ accounts of therapeutic work with unaccompanied children. Findings of the research suggest therapeutic work with this group presents challenges to therapists’ roles, to available models of therapy and to managing complex emotional responses in relation to the socio-political context. Participants’ responses to these challenges were conceptualised in an ongoing process of ‘searching for a middle ground’ within the complexities of the work. The findings are discussed with regard to existing literature about working with unaccompanied children and groups who share similar characteristics. Recommendations are made regarding professional practice, training needs and further research.

Keywordsrefugees; young people; grounded theory
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintMay 2012
Publication process dates
Deposited08 Jul 2013
Publisher's version
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