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Journal Article


Brunnet AE, Dos Santos Lobo N, Silveira T, Kristensen CH, Derivois D. Encephale (1974) 2020; ePub(ePub): ePub.


(Copyright © 2020, Masson Editeur)






INTRODUCTION: Migrants and refugees often face potentially traumatic events and post-migratory stressors. Upon arrival in the host country, they can be referred to mental health services to assess the impact of their previous experiences. These cross-cultural clinical encounters may raise questions, particularly regarding the assessment of mental health using models based on Western conceptions of psychopathology.

OBJECTIVES AND METHOD: The objective of the present non-systematic review of the literature is to discuss the psychological evaluation of post-traumatic reactions in migrants and refugees. More specifically, we present current research on psychopathology, resilience and post-traumatic development (PTG) among the migrant and refugee population. We also examine the cross-cultural validity of concepts such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, resilience and PTG. Finally, we describe the most frequently used tools in cross-cultural psychological assessment and briefly reflect on the question of cultural sensitivity of mental health professionals. A bibliographic search was carried out using the databases: PILOTS, Pubmed, APA PsycNET, and Google Scholar using the following keywords: "migrants", "refugees", "posttraumatic stress disorder", "mental health", "Psychopathology", "risk factors", "protection factors", "posttraumatic growth" and "resilience". We have also reviewed the reference lists of articles encountered from database searches.

RESULTS: Responses to a potentially traumatic situation are multiple. Regarding the migrant and refugee population, the reviewed articles studied different post-traumatic reactions such as resilience, post-traumatic development, and psychopathologies. The most studied psychopathological responses were depression, anxiety and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. After reviewing these studies, we asked the following question: considering the complexity of the migration process, what are the factors associated with the development of these different post-traumatic responses? Indeed, several individual and social factors before, during and after migration influence the mental health of individuals in a migration situation. Among the most cited risk factors identified were: to be a victim of or witness to violence in the country of origin and, after migration, to face post-migration difficulties such as asylum denial, to be in a precarious situation with regard to housing and work, as well as the difficulties linked to adaptation to the new culture. We have also described protective factors for the mental health of this population, such as: social support, psychological support, and a good quality of life in the host country. The reviewed articles also describe an important influence of cultural aspects on mental health, such as the perception of an event as traumatic. Although the authors of the reviewed articles accept this influence of culture on post-traumatic responses, most of the tools used to assess the mental health of migrants and refugees were created in a Western context. Studies show a growing concern with these cultural aspects, and certain tools that allow a more culturally sensitive evaluation, such as the "Cultural Formulation Interview", are being developed.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Even if the concern with the sensitivity of the tools used in cross-cultural assessment seems to be more present in the international literature, researchers seem to encounter difficulties in better understanding the effects of culture on the mental health of individuals. With increasingly diverse societies, new research should not be based on participants' geographic or ethnic origins, but rather try to "unpack" culture with, for example, the exploration of the relationships between certain values or orientations and the different expressions of psychological distress. Finally, given the still lacking development in the field of cross-cultural research, certain practices, such as the participation of interpreters, the supervision of cultural mediators or the use of culturally sensitive tools, can help the clinician to maintain good practices with patients from different cultures in the diagnostic and psychotherapeutical processes.

Language: en


Trauma; Mental health; √Čvaluation Psychologique; Migrations; Psychological assessment; Sant√© Mentale


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