New APA Report Highlights Resilience and Recovery After War for Refugee Children and Families in the US

The APA Task Force on the Psychosocial Effects of War on Children and Families Who are Refugees from Armed Conflict Residing in the United States address the issues of resettled refugees.

In the ongoing and contentious debate surrounding immigration, the lives and experiences of resettled refugees receive less visibility. War and armed conflict affect millions of people around the world each year—tens of thousands of whom flee their home countries to seek a better life elsewhere. With these concerns in mind, the Council of Representatives approved the creation of the APA Task Force on the Psychosocial Effects of War on Children and Families Who are Refugees from Armed Conflict Residing in the United States in 2008 to address these issues.

The task force’s newly released report does the following:

  • Reviews the research on psychosocial effects of war,

  • Identifies areas where culturally and developmentally appropriate research is needed, and

  • Provides recommendations for culturally and developmentally informed practice and programs.

The full report, its executive summary, and a treatment overview for mental health professionals are all available for download.

An Excerpt from the Press Release

Resilience & Recovery After WarPsychology is just beginning to understand the full impact of armed conflict, displacement, and resettlement on children’s development and overall well-being. However, despite the mental health risks of the unimaginable hardship and trauma associated with war, there is evidence to suggest that war-affected children demonstrate tremendous resilience.

Psychologists and other mental health professionals can assist refugee children and their families with recovery by:

Recognizing and understanding the factors involved in psychosocial adjustment following war and violence

Providing comprehensive mental health services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate

Partnering with members of the refugee community in performing research, advocacy, and mental health care

Adhering to strong ethical standards in the research, practice, and advocacy to protect human rights of refugee communities

The treatment needs of refugee populations resettled in America are complex and diverse. Consequently, psychologists and other mental health providers must provide comprehensive services that are culturally competent and that integrate evidence-based practice with practice-based evidence. Sample vignettes in the report bring to life scenarios that war-affected children and families face everyday. Each vignette is followed by a mental health care principle that takes theory and puts it into practice.

Researchers must utilize a wide range of methodologies to identify and understand cultural variations in well-being and distress, and instill ethical considerations of the power disparities and vulnerabilities that exist for refugee populations in the conduct of their work. The report concludes with recommendations for advancing services and supports, the research and knowledge base, and education and training opportunities for refugee children and families.

APA is grateful to the AjA Project for its licensing of various photographs of displaced youth for use in the report. The AjA Project is a nonprofit organization that utilizes photography-based educational programs to transform the lives of refugee and displaced youth by getting them to see themselves as agents of personal and social transformation. Please visit the AjA Project to support this organization’s vital work.