Feasibility Trial of a Scalable Transdiagnostic Group Psychological Intervention for Syrians Residing in a Refugee Camp

Approximately 10% of Syrian refugees currently reside in camp settings, which can impose additional post-migration stressors. With elevated rates of psychological distress and few available resources, task-shifting psychosocial programmes are necessary to provide adequate care. One such programme developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) is Group Problem Management Plus (GroupPM+). This study aimed to test the safety and acceptability of GroupPM+ in a refugee camp and to identify areas for adaptation in preparation for a definitive RCT. A feasibility randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted in Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. Inclusion criteria were: (1) Syrian adults aged ≥18 years, (2) parent of a child aged 10–16 years, (3) experiencing psychological distress as defined by a score of ≥16 on the Kessler Distress Scale, and (4) ≥17 on the WHO Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0. Following baseline assessments, participants were randomized to receive GroupPM+ or enhanced treatment-as-usual. Post-assessments were conducted one week following the last GroupPM+ session. Primary outcomes were feasibility and acceptance of GroupPM+; symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, prodromal psychosis, grief, and child’s self-reported psychological distress were also assessed. Of the 207 persons screened, 64 (31%) screened positive for psychological distress. Of the 35 randomized into the GroupPM+ intervention, 24 (69%) completed the intervention. No adverse events were reported throughout the trial. Children whose parents received GroupPM+ had greater reductions in internalizing and externalizing symptoms at posttreatment. 55 (86%) participants completed the post-assessment follow-up. These results demonstrate both the feasibility of conducting the trial in a camp and acceptance of the GroupPM+ intervention by Syrian refugees. Following the feasibility trial, both the implementation procedures and intervention were safe and culturally acceptable. The results support the readiness for a definitive RCT to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the intervention in camp settings.

Start Date:2016

End Date:2022

Partners: University of New South Wales
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Donors: European Commission (EC)

Publications: European Journal of Psychotraumatology