Examining the resettlement experiences of Muslim women

Implications for training psychologists and counselors


  • Farahdeba Herrawi University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • Christine Marsico Counseling Psychology and Applied Human Development, Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development
  • Álvaro Gamio Cuervo Department of Counseling and School Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8647-7138
  • Lisa Cosgrove Department of Counseling and School Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3101-5726




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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Author Biographies

Christine Marsico, Counseling Psychology and Applied Human Development, Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development

Christine is a doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology at Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.  Her research and clinical work focuses on critical consciousness development and trauma recovery, particularly within refugee and asylum-seeking populations. 

Álvaro Gamio Cuervo, Department of Counseling and School Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston

Álvaro Gamio Cuervo is a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. His research focuses on family violence and rejection, critical suicidology, and community responses to mental health crises. They strive to improve preventative and therapeutic services to benefit communities who reside at the intersection of multiple interlocking systems of oppression and who have been historically excluded from research.

Lisa Cosgrove, Department of Counseling and School Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston

Lisa Cosgrove, PhD is a Clinical Psychologist and Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston where she teaches courses on psychiatric diagnosis and psychopharmacology. She was a Research Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University (2010-2015), served as a consultant to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, child psychiatrist Dainius Puras (2017-2020), and is currently a Faculty Fellow at the Applied Ethics Center at UMB.


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How to Cite

Herrawi, F., Marsico, C., Gamio Cuervo, Álvaro, & Cosgrove, L. (2023). Examining the resettlement experiences of Muslim women: Implications for training psychologists and counselors. Journal for Social Action in Counseling & Psychology, 15(1), 51–69. https://doi.org/10.33043/JSACP.15.1.51-69



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