Examining the resettlement experiences of Muslim women
Implications for training psychologists and counselors
Keywords:refugee, asylum, human rights, Muslim, capabilities approach
In recent years there has been increased attention to the impact of migration on mental health. However, existing research uses an intra-individual lens, focuses on the poor mental health of refugees and asylum seekers, and fails to address the limits of traditional therapy. The aim of the present study was to address a gap in the literature on migration by focusing on the following question: how might a human rights approach help us to identify the policies, practices, and structural forces that impact mental health after migration?
Muslim women who migrated to the U.S. as refugees and/or seeking asylum were asked about their experiences of health and well-being. Qualitative data from 10 semi-structured interviews were analyzed and thematic methods were used to generate themes. Four main themes were identified: 1) critical to the definition of a meaningful life was having access to human rights to which Muslim women were entitled; 2) the pervasive impact of legal and financial issues, family separation, and citizenship-related challenges as structural causes of distress; 3) connection serves to enhance well-being; and 4) clinicians can help mitigate the emotional distress incurred by migration by identifying and responding to the health harming legal needs of their clients. This study highlights the importance of incorporating a structural competency framework when working with refugee and asylum-seeking Muslim women in order to challenge health-harming systems which restrict their human rights.
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