City Research Online

War-related trauma: forced migrants’ experiences of trauma therapy in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Elwakili, N. (2018). War-related trauma: forced migrants’ experiences of trauma therapy in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The world’s biggest forced migration is currently taking place. This population now makes up a considerable proportion of those accessing trauma services in the UK. Narrative exposure therapy (NET) is increasingly used with this population in services across the NHS. However, there are no studies reporting on its acceptability or how this group experiences this narrative and exposure-informed approach. Although the evidence base for the use of NET is promising, it remains symptom-reduction focused. This study sought to capture the accounts of seven forced migrants who had had NET for their PTSD through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Six super-ordinate themes emerged from the data: (1) The struggle with therapy, fear, ambivalence and exposure; (2) Living with loss, pain, grief and uncertainty; (3) Trusting someone else to be your voice; (4) A life more than just trauma – ‘remembering the good and the bad’; (5) From trauma and despair to understanding the big things in life – ‘something to navigate from’; and (6) Reconstructing a sense of self, identity and attachment. The latter three themes reflect new findings in relation to the existing trauma-focused literature for this population, unique to NET. A sub-theme that emerged unanimously from the accounts was NET as ‘shaking up symptoms’. The tangible and experiential aspects of the therapy contributed to participants being able to ‘see the bigger picture’ at a flashback and gestalt level, seeing the ‘self’ as a survivor and as having ‘a life more than just trauma’. Developing a future orientation, reinvesting in the ‘self’, developing a balanced perspective of life and of a ‘self’ that endured more than just trauma, were some of the outcomes. The findings represent real-world subjective outcomes that existing studies on NET for this population have not been able to capture. Implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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