“It is worth hanging in there” – Psychotherapeutic experiences shaping future motivation for outpatient psychotherapy with refugee clients in Germany
2023-07-12, Potter, Flurina, Zehb, Marlene, Dohrmann, Katalin, Müller-Bamouh, Veronika, Rockstroh, Brigitte, Crombach, Anselm
Background: A high prevalence of mental disorders in refugees contrasts with a low rate of treatment and limited access to health care services. In addition to pre-, peri- and post-migration stress, language, cultural barriers together with lack of information about cost reimbursement, and access to German (mental) health care institutions are discussed as barriers to use of available services. Such barriers together with insufficient experience of treating traumatized refugee clients may lower therapists’ motivation and facilities to accept refugee clients. A model project called “Fearless” trained, and supervised therapists, translators, and peer counsellors to reduce these barriers and increase therapists’ motivation and engagement in future treatment of refugees. Methods: From a total 14 therapists participating in the project N = 13 were available for semi-structured interviews. The interviews were scheduled during or after their outpatient psychotherapy of refugee clients and lasted one hour on average. Based on qualitative assessment strategies, open questions addressed the therapists’ experience of challenges, enrichments, and motivation throughout the therapy. Therapists’ responses were analyzed using content structuring qualitative content analysis. Results: Three major challenges modulated therapists’ future motivation for treating refugee clients: specific bureaucratic efforts (e.g., therapy application), organizational difficulties (e.g., scheduling appointments), and clients’ motivation (e.g., adherence, reliability). Still, most interviewed therapists ( n = 12) evaluated the therapy as enriching and expressed their motivation to accept refugee clients in the future ( n = 10). Conclusion: Results recommend the reduction of bureaucratic effort (e.g., regular health insurance cover for all refugees) and implementation of organizational support (e.g., peer counsellors) in support of therapists’ motivation for future treatment of refugee clients. Further structural support e.g., with organizing and financing professional translators and referring refugee clients to psychotherapists should be deployed nationwide. We recommend the training in, and supervision of, the treatment of refugee clients as helpful additional modules in psychotherapy training curricula to raise therapists’ motivation to work with refugee clients.
Practical guidelines for online Narrative Exposure Therapy (e-NET) : a short-term treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder adapted for remote delivery
2021-03-01, Kaltenbach, Elisa, McGrath, Patrick J., Schauer, Maggie, Kaiser, Elisabeth, Crombach, Anselm, Robjant, Katy
Background: Online therapy has become increasingly desirable and available in recent years, with the current COVID-19 pandemic acting as a catalyst to develop further protocols enabling therapists to conduct online treatment safely and efficaciously. Offering online treatment potentially means that treatments are available to clients who would otherwise have no access, closing the gap in the provision of mental health services worldwide.
Objective: This paper focuses on practical guidelines using online Narrative Exposure Therapy (e-NET). It aims to be an addition to the general manual of NET to enable therapists to deliver online treatment. The face-to-face version of NET is a well-known short-term and evidence-based treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder; e-NET is currently being tested in several additional trials. Methods: The differences between NET and e-NET are elaborated and depicted in detail.
Results: Difficulties encountered in e-NET delivery, e.g. confidentiality, dealing with interruptions, comorbid symptoms among others, are similar to those that occur during face to face interventions but the solutions have to be adapted. Dissociation is often regarded as a challenge in face-to-face treatment, and requires particular attention within the online setting. Therefore, tools for addressing dissociation in this particular setting are presented.
Conclusions: These practical guidelines show the advantages as well as the challenges therapists face when conducting e-NET. They aim to empower therapists working with trauma clients to conduct e-NET confidently and safely.
Impact and cultural acceptance of the Narrative Exposure Therapy in the aftermath of a natural disaster in Burundi
2018-07-18, Crombach, Anselm, Siehl, Sebastian
Background: In the aftermath of natural disasters, affected populations are at risk of suffering from trauma-related mental health disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Particularly in poor post-conflict regions, these mental disorders have the potential to impair the ability of individuals to move on with their lives. We aimed to evaluate the feasibility, cultural acceptance, and effect of a trauma-focused psychotherapy, Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), in the aftermath of a flood disaster in Burundi.
Methods: Fifty-one individuals who were living in emergency camps overseen by the Burundian Red Cross in the aftermath of a flood disaster, and who had lost homes and close relatives, were invited to participate in semi- structured diagnostic interviews. Trained Burundian psychology students conducted these interviews, and six sessions of NET were offered to the 15 individuals most affected by trauma-related symptoms. An additional group of psychology students, blind to the treatment conditions, conducted three and 9 months follow-ups with them including also 25 participants who had reported significant but less severe trauma-related symptoms, assessing mental health symptoms, acceptance of NET, stigmatization due to trauma symptoms, and participants’ economic well-being.
Results: Between baseline and 9-months post-intervention assessment, symptoms of PTSD (Hedges’ g = 3.44) and depression (Hedges’ g = 1.88) improved significantly within participants who received NET and within those who received no treatment (Hedges’ gPTSD = 2.55; Hedges’ gdepression = 0.72). Furthermore, those who received NET felt less stigmatized by their participation in the intervention than by the trauma-related mental health symptoms they experienced. Overall, participants reported that they would be willing to forego as much as 1 month’s worth of income in exchange for receiving trauma-focused interventions in the months following the disaster.
Conclusions: Individuals severely affected by trauma-related mental health symptoms might benefit significantly from NET in the aftermath of natural disasters, while less affected individuals seem to recover spontaneously. Despite significant challenges conducting NET in emergency camps in the aftermath of natural disaster in a post-conflict country, such interventions are feasible, appreciated and might have long-lasting impacts on the lives of survivors if conducted with due respect to participants’ privacy.
Is shame the missing link between traumatic experiences and post-traumatic stress disorder in Burundian children living on the streets?
2022-07, Rukundo-Zeller, Anja C., Bambonye, Manassé, Mugisha, Hervé, Muhoza, Jean-Arnaud, Ndayikengurukiye, Thierry, Nitanga, Lydia, Rushoza, Amini Ahmed, Crombach, Anselm
Shame is an emotion reflecting an anticipated social devaluation of the self. It is strongly associated with experiences of humiliation and rejection in early life. Individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often struggle with shame. However, little is known about how shame contributes to the development and maintenance of PTSD symptoms in children. The present study investigated the ways childhood exposure to human-induced traumatic events promotes a coping mechanism of defeat and withdrawal facilitated by the experience of shame. We tested a dose–response relationship between lifetime experienced traumatic event types and PTSD in children using shame as a mediator.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with 33 male children who lived and worked on the streets of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi at the time of data collection. We assessed self-reported PTSD symptom severity, lifetime traumatic event load, violence experienced on the streets and shame intensity.
Mediation analyses revealed a significant indirect effect of lifetime traumatic events on PTSD symptom severity through shame intensity and a significant indirect effect of violence experienced on the streets on PTSD symptom severity through shame intensity.
Our study suggests the mediating role of shame between traumatic experiences as well as violent experiences and PTSD symptom severity in children living on the streets. Shame in children suffering from PTSD seems to play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of PTSD symptoms.
Systematic review and meta-analyses of the long-term efficacy of narrative exposure therapy for adults, children and perpetrators
2021-07, Siehl, Sebastian, Robjant, Katy, Crombach, Anselm
Objective: Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) is a short-term trauma-focused intervention originally developed for treating survivors of war and torture. The neurobiological theoretical foundations of NET would suggest that the approach should have long term beneficial effects. We tested this assumption and also provided an extensive overview of all NET studies for adults, for children (KIDNET), and for perpetrators (Forensic Offender Rehabilitation NET; FORNET).
Method: Following a systematic literature review, we conducted meta-analyses with all studies that had control conditions, and with all Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs). We assessed between-groups short- (< 6 months) and long-term (≥ 6 months) effect sizes for symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
Results: In a total of 56 studies from 30 countries comparing 1370 participants treated with NET to 1055 controls, we found large between group effect sizes regarding the reduction of PTSD symptoms in favor of NET. Analyses of RCTs with active controls yielded small to medium effect sizes in the short-term, and large effect sizes in the long-term.
Conclusions: NET, KIDNET, and FORNET yield beneficial and sustainable treatment results for severely traumatized individuals living in adverse circumstances. Studies in highly developed health care systems comparing NET with other evidence-based trauma-focused interventions are needed.
Online narrative exposure therapy for parents of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities suffering from posttraumatic stress symptoms : study protocol of a randomized controlled trial
2021, Kaltenbach, Elisa, Chisholm, Michelle, Xiong, Ting, Thomson, Donna, Crombach, Anselm, McGrath, Patrick J.
Parents of children with intellectual and neurodevelopmental disorders (IDD) often experience traumatic events in the care of their children. This leads to comparatively high numbers of mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in those parents. Intervention approaches for parents of children with IDD are scarce and many parents remain without support.
This study aims to test the feasibility and efficacy of online Narrative Exposure Therapy (eNET) with parents of children with IDD.
The study follows a randomized waitlist-control design. eNET is an exposure-based PTSD intervention and includes 8–12 90-minute sessions. All sessions will be conducted via video calls with trained paraprofessionals. We aim to include 50 parents, approximately 25 in the immediate intervention group and 25 in the waitlist group. Waitlist participants will receive the same intervention after a three-month wait period. All participants need to either fulfill full or subclinical PTSD symptoms according to DSM-5. Feasibility and efficacy of the intervention will be measured with pre, post, and 2 and 6 months follow-up surveys focusing on PTSD symptoms. Secondary outcomes include other health-related outcomes such as physical symptoms, depression symptoms, anxiety symptoms and functionality.
The proposed study allows us to test the feasibility and efficacy of eNET in a sample of parents of children with IDD. There are so far no published studies on the evidence of eNET; this study is one of the first randomized controlled trials investigating the feasibility and efficacy of eNET and therefore will have implications on further research and practice.
The impact of experiencing severe physical abuse in childhood on adolescent refugees' emotional distress and integration during the COVID-19 pandemic
2022, Potter, Flurina, Dohrmann, Katalin, Rockstroh, Brigitte, Schauer, Maggie, Crombach, Anselm
Background: Accumulating evidence highlights the importance of pre- and post- migration stressors on refugees’ mental health and integration. In addition to migration-associated stressors, experiences earlier in life such as physical abuse in childhood as well as current life stress as produced by the COVID-19-pandemic may impair mental health and successful integration – yet evidence on these further risks is still limited. The present study explicitly focused on the impact of severe physical abuse in childhood during the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluated the impact of these additional stressors on emotional distress and integration of refugees in Germany.
Methods: The sample included 80 refugees, 88.8% male, mean age 19.7 years. In a semi-structured interview, trained psychologists screened for emotional distress, using the Refugee Health Screener, and integration status, using the Integration Index. The experience of severe physical abuse in childhood was quantified as a yes/no response to the question: “Have you been hit so badly before the age of 15 that you had to go to hospital or needed medical attention?” Multiple hierarchical regression analyses further included gender, age, residence status, months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and length of stay in Germany to predict emotional distress and integration.
Results: Two regression analyses determined significant predictors of (1) emotional distress (adjusted R2 = 0.23): duration of being in the pandemic (ß = 0.38, p < 0.001) and severe physical abuse in childhood (ß = 0.31, p = 0.005), and significant predictors of (2) integration (adjusted R2 = 0.53): length of stay in Germany (ß = 0.62, p < 0.001), severe physical abuse in childhood (ß = 0.21, p = 0.019) and emotional distress (ß = −0.28, p = 0.002).
Conclusion: In addition to migration-associated stressors, severe physical abuse in childhood constitutes a pre-migration risk, which crucially affects the well-being, emotional distress and integration of refugees in Germany.
Effective Adoption of Tablets for Psychodiagnostic Assessments in Rural Burundi : Evidence for the Usability and Validity of Mobile Technology in the Example of Differentiating Symptom Profiles in AMISOM Soldiers 1 Year After Deployment
2021-04-15, Weierstall, Roland, Crombach, Anselm, Nandi, Corina, Bambonyé, Manassé, Probst, Thomas, Pryss, Rüdiger
Research on the use of mobile technology in health sciences has identified several advantages of so-called mHealth (mobile health) applications. Tablet-supported clinical assessments are becoming more and more prominent in clinical applications, even in low-income countries. The present study used tablet computers for assessments of clinical symptom profiles in a sample of Burundian AMISOM soldiers (i.e., African Union Mission to Somalia; a mission approved by the UN). The study aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of mHealth-supported assessments in field research in Burundi. The study was conducted in a resource-poor setting, in which tablet computers are predestined to gather data in an efficient and reliable manner. The overall goal was to prove the validity of the obtained data as well as the feasibility of the chosen study setting. Four hundred sixty-three soldiers of the AMISOM forces were investigated after return from a 1-year military mission in Somalia. Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression were assessed. The used data-driven approach based on a latent profile analysis revealed the following four distinct groups, which are based on the soldiers' PTSD and depression symptom profiles: Class 1: moderate PTSD, Class 2: moderate depression, Class 3: low overall symptoms, and Class 4: high overall symptoms. Overall, the four identified classes of soldiers differed significantly in their PTSD and depression scores. The study clearly demonstrates that tablet-supported assessments can provide a useful application of mobile technology in large-scale studies, especially in resource-poor settings. Based on the data collected for the study at hand, it was possible to differentiate different sub-groups of soldiers with distinct symptom profiles, proving the statistical validity of the gathered data. Finally, advantages and challenges for the application of mobile technology in a resource-poor setting are outlined and discussed.
The cycle of violence as a function of PTSD and appetitive aggression : A longitudinal study with Burundian soldiers
2020-09, Nandi, Corina, Crombach, Anselm, Elbert, Thomas, Bambonye, Manassé, Pryss, Rüdiger, Schobel, Johannes, Weierstall‐Pust, Roland
During deployment, soldiers face situations in which they are not only exposed to violence but also have to perpetrate it themselves. This study investigates the role of soldiers' levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and appetitive aggression, that is, a lust for violence, for their engaging in violence during deployment. Furthermore, factors during deployment influencing the level of PTSD symptoms and appetitive aggression after deployment were examined for a better comprehension of the maintenance of violence. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with 468 Burundian soldiers before and after a 1‐year deployment to Somalia. To predict violent acts during deployment (perideployment) as well as appetitive aggression and PTSD symptom severity after deployment (postdeployment), structural equation modeling was utilized. Results showed that the number of violent acts perideployment was predicted by the level of appetitive aggression and by the severity of PTSD hyperarousal symptoms predeployment. In addition to its association with the predeployment level, appetitive aggression postdeployment was predicted by violent acts and trauma exposure perideployment as well as positively associated with unit support. PTSD symptom severity postdeployment was predicted by the severity of PTSD avoidance symptoms predeployment and trauma exposure perideployment, and negatively associated with unit support. This prospective study reveals the importance of appetitive aggression and PTSD hyperarousal symptoms for the engagement in violent acts during deployment, while simultaneously demonstrating how these phenomena may develop in mutually reinforcing cycles in a war setting.