Cognitive behavioral psychotherapeutic treatment at a psychiatric trauma clinic for refugees: description and evaluation


  • Cæcilie Buhmann Competence Center for Transcultural Psychiatry (CTP), Psychiatric Center Ballerup, the Mental Health Services of the Capital Region of Denmark
  • Ida Andersen Competence Center for Transcultural Psychiatry (CTP), Psychiatric Center Ballerup, the Mental Health Services of the Capital Region of Denmark
  • Erik Lykke Mortensen Institute for Public Health, University of Copenhagen
  • Jasmina Ryberg Competence Center for Transcultural Psychiatry (CTP), Psychiatric Center Ballerup, the Mental Health Services of the Capital Region of Denmark
  • Merete Nordentoft sychiatric Center Copenhagen, the Mental Health Services of the Capital Region of Denmark
  • Morten Ekstrøm ) Competence Center for Transcultural Psychiatry (CTP), Psychiatric Center Ballerup, the Mental Health Services of the Capital Region of Denmark



Refugee, trauma, CBT, PTSD, depression, psychotherapeutic treatment, mindfulness, acceptance, commitment


Introduction: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with trauma focus is the most evidence supported psychotherapeutic treatment of PTSD, but few CBT treatments for traumatized refugees have been described in detail.

Purpose: To describe and evaluate a manualized cognitive behavioral therapy for traumatized refugees incorporating exposure therapy, mindfulness and acceptance, and commitment therapy.

Material and methods: 85 patients received six months’ treatment at a Copenhagen Trauma Clinic for Refugees and completed self-ratings before and after treatment. The treatment administered to each patient was monitored in detail. The changes in mental state and the treatment components associated with change in state were analyzed statistically.

Results: Despite the low level of functioning and high co-morbidity of patients, 42% received highly structured CBT, which was positively associated with all treatment outcomes. The more methods used and the more time each method was used, the better the outcome. The majority of patients were able to make homework assignments and this was associated with better treatment outcome. Correlation analysis showed no association between severity of symptoms at baseline and the observed change.

Conclusion: The study suggests that CBT treatment incorporating mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy is promising for traumatized refugees and punctures the myth that this group of patients are unable to participate fully in structured CBT. However, treatment methods must be adapted to the special needs of refugees and trauma exposure should be further investigated. 


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How to Cite

Buhmann, C., Andersen, I., Mortensen, E. L., Ryberg, J., Nordentoft, M., & Ekstrøm, M. (2018). Cognitive behavioral psychotherapeutic treatment at a psychiatric trauma clinic for refugees: description and evaluation. Torture Journal, 25(1), 16.