Review: Cultural adaptations to psychosocial interventions for families with refugee/asylum-seeker status in the United Kingdom – a systematic review

Alice Taylor*, Gillian Radford, Clara Calia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Young people with refugee or asylum-seeker status (R/AS) often present with complex mental health needs, in the context of traumatic life experiences. Generic mental health services in the United Kingdom (UK) may be ill-equipped to manage the unique experiences of these young people. Culturally adapted interventions (CAI) could provide a culturally sensitive approach to mental health support for refugee children experiencing difficult symptoms. A systematic review was conducted to determine the different types of cultural adaptation in the included studies, and to determine the efficacy of CAIs in comparison to generic treatment. 

Methods: Systematic searches of eleven databases were completed in December 2020. Any psychosocial interventions conducted in the United Kingdom aimed at providing mental health support for refugee young people and families were included. This was to ensure the potential inclusion of all studies regardless of their adherence to the traditional framework of assessment and intervention in high-income countries, for example randomised control trials. 

Results: Eleven studies of varying methodology, participant group, intervention type and outcome measures were included in this review. Studies used a variety of cultural adaptations including surface-level and deep-level adaptations. Studies showed some support for the use of CAIs with young people with R/AS, with varying degrees of symptom reduction. It was not possible to compare the effectiveness of CAIs against ‘treatment-as-usual’, nor to determine the effectiveness of different CAI components. 

Conclusions: Whilst there is evidence for the use of CAIs with R/AS young people, the heterogeneity between studies limits the generalisability of these results. The available research is not sufficient to provide conclusive evidence of the use of CAIs over ‘treatment-as-usual’. Research and clinical implications are highlighted. Future research could examine the most effective components of CAIs and aim to increase the evidence base of interventions for young people and families with R/AS.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalChild and Adolescent Mental Health
Early online date23 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Feb 2022


  • adolescence
  • cross-cultural
  • intervention
  • mental health
  • refugees


Dive into the research topics of 'Review: Cultural adaptations to psychosocial interventions for families with refugee/asylum-seeker status in the United Kingdom – a systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this