A brief psychological intervention for Afghan asylum seekers in Austria

In the present project, we intend to contribute to the mitigation of the mental health burden experienced by Afghan asylum seekers and refugees in Austria.

Refugees suffer from a variety of mental disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety disorders. Post-migration stressors have repeatedly been found to profoundly contribute to this psychological distress. The evidence base for treatment of help-seeking refugees and asylum seekers is sparse and mainly limited to trauma-specific treatments.

Evaluating a transdiagnostic and short term manual is necessary for implementing early and wide-spread treatment methods. Several aspects can be addressed by the present study:

• Coping with post-migration living difficulties (PMLDs): e.g. family separation, acculturation, discrimination, refugee policies, social isolation
• Prevention of chronic states
• Shorten long waiting time
• Not all traumatized individuals need trauma therapy
• Involving therapists without specialization in trauma
• Short term treatments pave the way for specialized trauma treatment

The study has several major aims:

• To evaluate the efficacy of a short-term intervention protocol adapted to address mental health problems and post-migration stressors (adapted Problem Management Plus; WHO), for support-seeking Afghan asylum seekers and refugees.
• To include subjective experiences of participants in order to improve the manual’s acceptance.
• To develop an online training platform to train primary care mental health professionals and to evaluate its applicability.

Study procedure:

• Diagnostic interviews with all study participants (with interpreter, if needed) at 3 different time points within one year
• All diagnostic interviews are carried out by an experienced clinical and health psychologist
• Half of the study participants (random sample) participate in weekly sessions à 90 minutes for six weeks
• The sessions are carried out face-to-face with a trained clinical psychologist/psychotherapist (with interpreter, if needed)
• In-depth interviews with a small sample of participants
• Development and evaluation of an online training tool

Inclusion criteria:

• Female or male Afghan asylum seeker or refugee
• Registered on a waiting list for clinical psychological treatment or psychotherapy in a specialized   facility (e.g. Verein Hemayat, Sintem, Psychosoziales Zentrum ESRA, Kriseninterventionszentrum, PSD)
• Minimum age: 18yrs.
• Participants speak German, English, or Dari
• Positive screening on a screening questionnaire for common mental disorders
• No acute suicidal thoughts
• No psychotic disorder or severe substance abuse disorder