Understanding mechanisms of change in a family-based preventive mental health intervention for refugees by refugees in New England

Kira DiClemente-Bosco*, Sarah Elizabeth Neville, Jenna M. Berent, Jordan Farrar, Tej Mishra, Abdirahman Abdi, William R. Beardslee, John W. Creswell, Theresa S. Betancourt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Transnational migration of refugees is associated with poor mental health, particularly among children. We conducted a pilot trial of the Family Strengthening Intervention for Refugees (FSI-R), using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to deliver a home-based intervention “for refugees by refugees” to improve family functioning and child mental health. N = 80 refugee families in the Greater Boston area participated in the study (n = 40 Somali Bantu families; n = 40 Bhutanese families) with n = 41 families randomized to care-as-usual. Of the 39 families who received FSI-R, n = 36 caregivers and children completed qualitative exit interviews. We present findings from these interviews to identify the mechanisms through which a family-strengthening intervention for refugees can be acceptable, feasible, and effective at improving family functioning and children's mental health outcomes. Authors applied Grounded Theory to code interview transcripts and detailed field notes and used an iterative process to arrive at final codes, themes, and a theoretical framework. The greatest contributors to acceptability and feasibility included flexibility in scheduling intervention sessions, the interventionist being a community member, and improvements to family communication and time spent together. All of these factors were made possible by the CBPR approach. Our findings suggest that given the socio-political context within the U.S. and the economic challenges faced by refugee families, the successful implementation of such interventions hinges on culturally-grounding the intervention design process, drawing heavily on community input, and prioritizing community members as interventionists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-155
Number of pages14
Journaltranscultural psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • adolescent health
  • child health
  • community-based participatory research
  • intervention
  • mental health
  • refugee

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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