Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps the mental health of refugees and asylum seeker children

Added June 8, 2021

Citation: Lawton K, Spencer A. A Full Systematic Review on the Effects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Mental Health Symptoms in Child Refugees. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. 2021;23(3):624-39. 

What is this? A large proportion of refugee or asylum-seeker children suffer mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a recommended treatment for these conditions.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for randomised trials and observational studies with an interventional component and measurable outcomes that assessed the effects of CBT on mental health symptoms in refugees or asylum-seekers aged 2 to 18 years. They restricted their searches to articles published in English and did the search in April 2020. They included 16 studies, which included controlled trials (5 studies), randomised equivalence trials (2), case-series with observations on participants before and after the intervention (7) and case-reports (2).

What was found: Mental health symptoms were reduced in refugee or asylum-seeker children following CBT, without signs of intervention-related adverse effects.

School-based CBT interventions were acceptable and accessible.

The effects of specific types of CBT on specific mental health conditions and the effects of CBT booster sessions for maintaining sustainable positive outcomes are uncertain.


Disclaimer: This summary has been written by staff and volunteers of Evidence Aid in order to make the content of the original document accessible to decision makers who are searching for the available evidence on the health of refugees and asylum seekers but may not have the time, initially, to read the original report in full. This summary is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians, other health workers, professional associations, guideline developers, or national governments and international agencies. If readers of this summary think that the evidence that is presented within it is relevant to their decision-making they should refer to the content and details of the original article, and the advice and guidelines offered by other sources of expertise, before making decisions. Evidence Aid cannot be held responsible for any decisions made about the health of refugees and asylum seekers on the basis of this summary alone.