Effectiveness of a transdiagnostic group intervention to enhance emotion regulation in young afghan refugees: A pilot randomized controlled study

Behavior Research and Therapy

Theresa Kochab, Thomas Ehringa, Alexandra Liedl

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2020.103689

Abstract

There are several challenges to providing mental health care for refugees, including high comorbidity and structural barriers. Targeting transdiagnostic processes in a low-threshold group intervention appears particularly promising to meet these challenges. This study examined the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of a new transdiagnostic intervention, Skills-Training of Affect Regulation–A Culture-sensitive Approach (STARC), focusing on conveying strategies to improve emotional clarity and to regulate emotions. A parallel-group (STARC vs. waitlist) randomized-controlled study with 44 young male Afghan refugees was conducted in a routine clinical setting (NCT03162679). In intention-to-treat analyses, participants of STARC significantly improved in self-reported difficulties in emotion regulation (ΔdSTARC-Waitlist = 1.22), transdiagnostic symptom severity (ΔdSTARC-Waitlist = 1.69), posttraumatic stress symptoms (ΔdSTARC-Waitlist = 1.19), and caregiver-reported emotional competence (ΔdSTARC-Waitlist = −0.90), but not anger reactions (ΔdSTARC-Waitlist = 0.50) compared to waitlist. Effects were maintained over 3 months. STARC is a feasible transdiagnostic intervention in a routine clinical setting and effective for young Afghan refugees. If replicated in large-scale studies with active control groups, it might be promising as an initial low-threshold intervention offered in a phased-based and/or stepped care approach.

Keywords: Refugees, Trauma, Afghanistan, Transdiagnostic, Emotion Regulation, Group treatment, PTSD

Available online 27 June 2020, 103689

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