STRENGTHS Research Symposium

The STRENGTHS research symposium will be held at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and online.

The symposium will integrate the most important and novel research findings from all partners and provide information about the training and next steps in implementation.

The STRENGTHS project (Scaling up psychological interventions with Syrian refugees) trained Syrian refugees to provide scalable psychological programmes developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), targeting symptoms of common mental disorders.


In-person attendees are encouraged to register soon as seats are limited. Attending in-person includes a reservation fee of 20€. The money from the registration fees will be donated to the UNHCR.

Those planning to attend online can register free of cost.

Programme of the day

09:00 – 09:30 Registration & coffee

09:30 – 09:40 Welcome (Sahar Shirzad; prof. dr. Marit Sijbrandij, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

09:40 – 09:45 The development of scalable interventions (dr. Mark van Ommeren, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland)

09:45 –10:15 Group Problem Management Plus (PM+) in a Jordan refugee camp (prof.dr. Richard Bryant, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) & Implementing EASE (Early Adolescent Skills for Emotions) in Lebanon (prof.dr. Mark Jordans, War Child Holland and University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; dr. Felicity Brown, War Child Holland)

10:15 – 10:45 Coffee break

10:45 – 11:30 Problem Management Plus (PM+) delivered by peer-refugees in the Netherlands (Anne de
Graaff, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands), Turkey (dr. Ceren Acartürk, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey) and Switzerland (dr. Naser Morina, University Hospital Zürich, Switzerland).

11:30 – 12:00 Step-by-Step: a smartphone-delivered scalable intervention for adults: results from Egypt,
Germany and Sweden (prof.dr. Christine Knaevelsrud, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)

12:00 – 13:00 Lunch

13:00 – 14:00 Improving responsiveness of health systems using the scalable WHO programmes: effects
on the larger systems (prof. dr. Bayard Roberts, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK; dr. David McDaid, London School of Economics and Political Sciences, UK; dr. Peter Ventevogel, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, Switzerland; dr. Pernille Hansen, Danish Red Cross / Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support, Copenhagen, Denmark)

14:00 – 15:00 Panel discussion with young STRENGTHS researchers: Aemal Akhtar, Aniek Woodward,
Anne de Graaff, Frederik Steen, Gülşah Kurt, Jonas Hessling, Julia Spaaij, Nikolai Kiselev and Zeynep Ilkkursun. Moderator: Sahar Shirzad.

15:00 – 15:15 Closing remarks (Sahar Shirzad, dr. Peter Ventevogel)

15:15 – 15:45 Coffee break

Followed by the public Inaugural Lecture of prof. dr. Marit Sijbrandij, the Principal Investigator of STRENGTHS. All attendees are invited to the lecture, which takes place in the Aula of the Vrije Universiteit. Please note the inaugural lecture begins promptly at exactly 15:45.

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