Polish Immigrants and Psychological Help: A Qualitative Exploration

Prof Doc Thesis

Pleitgen, K. 2018. Polish Immigrants and Psychological Help: A Qualitative Exploration. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.874x9
AuthorsPleitgen, K.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Polish immigrants are currently the largest foreign-born population in the UK. Nevertheless, their needs appear somewhat invisible. Research indicates that, despite experiencing high levels of psychological distress, the utilisation of psychological services amongst Polish individuals is low. This thesis explores factors affecting the psychological wellbeing of Polish immigrants, their access to services and their experience of accessing them. It also explores the understanding of this client group amongst psychologists, their training needs and ways to improve services. The study adopts a mixed methods design. An online survey was conducted amongst psychologists and the gathered data was analysed using content analysis. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with members of the Polish community who have accessed psychological help.
Data was analysed using thematic analysis. Psychologists responding to the survey acknowledged the impact of migrationrelated, socio-economic and cultural factors on the wellbeing of Polish clients. In considering access to services, the majority of responses located the barriers within the Polish community (e.g. help-seeking attitudes). Analysis of the interviews with Polish people who had accessed services identified three overarching themes encompassing the role of cultural factors, conceptualisations of distress, negotiation of migrant identity and the relationship with the NHS. The theme ‘Occupying dichotomous positions’ describes immigrants’ position in relation to time (present/past), place (Poland/UK) and identity (Victim/oppressor, different/the same). The second
theme ‘Help through Polish cultural lenses’ contains sub-themes conceptualising therapy as culturally unfamiliar, seeking help as connected to aspects of pride and shame, and perception of services as unwilling to help. The final theme, ‘Understanding beyond language’, conveys the importance of understanding the historical, political and cultural context as well as appropriately addressing language barriers.
Based on the findings, implications for clinical practice and future research are considered. The findings suggest that there is a need to improve the understanding of the Polish community within mainstream psychology services, and efforts should be made to improve the relationship between Polish communities and the NHS. The need to develop Community Based Participatory Action Research projects with the Polish community was highlighted as one of the future research implications.

PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.874x9
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Publication dates
PrintDec 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited21 Nov 2019
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