Working with refugees – what do we need to know

30 September 20229:00am - 4:30pm
  • Crisis, disaster and trauma
From £40
Muslim mother and her son embrace and enjoy time in the city together.
In person
Crisis, Disaster and Trauma Psychology Section

This event has now closed for bookings


BPS offices, London


Working with refugees and asylum seeking people requires the usual expertise of an applied psychologist but also an understanding of a wide range of additional factors. These include working with an interpreter, developing a culturally relevant practice, the legal context, an appreciation of the potential impact of multiple traumatic experiences on refugees but coupled with an awareness and recognition of resilience.

This conference brings together a group of internationally recognised psychologists who have worked for many years with asylum seeking and refugee children, unaccompanied minors, families and other adults. Working with clients in the UK but also overseas will be covered.

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Delegate category Fee payable by delegate (inc VAT)
Concessions/Student Members (If applicable) £40
Network Members (if applicable) £85
BPS Members £120
Non-Members £150
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Professor Rachel Tribe, University of East London Working with interpreters - face-to-face and online or via the telephone

Professor Rachel Tribe is based at the School of Psychology, University of East London and the Centre for Psychiatry, Queen Mary, University of London. Professor Tribe has worked and published extensively in the area of migration and mental health. She regularly undertakes international and national training and consultancy work. Professor Rachel Tribe is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a registered HCPC Psychologist.

She has experience of working in the private, public, charity and academic sectors. Her national and international consultancy and training work has included the British Psychological Society (BPS), (British) Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department of Education, the Department of Health (DH) the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the World Association of Psychiatrists, The World Association of Cultural Psychiatry, Refugee Council, Amnesty International, British Council, Red Cross, MSF, War Child and the Singapore Psychological Society amongst others. Her most recent co-edited book is D. Moussaoui., D. Bhugra,, R. Tribe. & A. Ventriglio (2021) (eds) Migration, Mental Health and Mental Illness New York: Springer.

In 2016, with Dr Farkhondeh Farsimadan she set up an online resource for Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Health and Social Care Professionals alongside them . The online portal contains resources for adults and children and is updated yearly. 


On arrival in Britain, a percentage of refugees and asylum seekers will not speak English fluently enough to engage with a psychologist and may require the services of an interpreter. Working effectively in partnership with interpreters is a skill that needs to be developed by every psychologist regardless of their specialism. This is to ensure that equal opportunities are upheld and that certain groups are not denied access to psychological services when they require them.

Working with an interpreter can be a positive and enriching experience for psychologists. Interpreters not only enable communication and the meeting to take place, but they may also contribute useful information for psychologists on diverse idioms of distress, explanatory health models as well as relevant contextual and cultural factors. These may help psychologists extend their skills and knowledge and offer a better service. A range of relevant resources will be discussed. This presentation will consider some of the associated issues and should enhance the skills of psychologists in working with interpreters.

David Trickey Consultant Clinical Psychologist/Trauma Lead Northamptonshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health ServicesTrauma and PTSD in children and adolescent refugees

David Trickey is a leading Consultant Clinical Psychologist who has specialised in working with traumatised children, young people and their families since 2000. He is chartered by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). He continues to focus on direct clinical work, as well as the training and supervision of others working with traumatised children, young people and their families. He is also Co-director of the UK Trauma Council ( He was a member of the committee responsible for the 2018 revision of the NICE Guidelines for PTSD. In all of his roles he both contributes to and draws heavily on, the research literature.


There is much talk of 'trauma', 'complex trauma', 'developmental trauma', 'trauma-informed' and 'trauma-focused'. This presentation will unpick these words and use the Cognitive Model of PTSD to examine how potentially traumatic events can affect children and young people (beyond just PTSD). We will then consider specifically how this applies to refugee children and young people and how their particular experiences can be especially traumatic. Some suggestions for assessment will be offered, before discussing what the evidence has to say about what might help.

Professor Amina Memon Chair of Psychology Centre for Emotion and Law Royal Holloway University of London

Amina Memon’s research in social and cognitive psychology contributed to best practice in forensic interviews of vulnerable witnesses. Her studies have included children, individuals with autism, seniors, police officers and judges. Her current projects include assessing credibility and reliability of witness testimony, cognitive/social biases on decision making and characteristics of memory reports of victims of single and repeated childhood trauma. In 2017, she received the Economic and Social Research Council Outstanding Impact on Public Policy Prize.

Amina is co-director of the Centre for Emotion and Law. Her research on information gathering in legal contexts and contextual influences (including emotion) on judgement of accuracy, truthfulness and credibility led her to forge this new interdisciplinary focus. She is currently funded by Unbound Philanthropy to disseminate research on psychological issues pertinent to children and adults seeking international protection.


Several factors can affect the process of eliciting detailed and accurate narratives from applicants in official asylum interviews. I’ll argue that the Home Office guidance for interviewers and decision makers needs to adopt a bespoke approach to identifying vulnerabilities in asylum interviews.  

I’ll consider factors that may hinder communication in an interview broadly covering the following: (1) interviewer behaviour including expectations/biases about how a traumatised person should present verbally and non-verbally; (2) interview context (face-to-face vs. remote), and interpreter-mediated interviews and (3) the challenges of eliciting detailed information while addressing the care needs of the asylum claimant.  I question how a trauma informed approached can be effectively implemented given the multiple skills/roles as well as expertise in reflective practice that are required of an interviewer.  

Dr Siobhan Currie Senior Educational Psychologist and Chair of the Crisis, Disaster & Trauma Section

Dr Siobhan Currie is Chair of the British Psychological Society's Crisis, Disaster and Trauma Section and a Senior Educational Psychologist. She has worked at all levels in psychology services to schools and families and led a multidisciplinary critical incident response team for over 10 years. Her doctoral research at UCL focused on schools’ responses to critical incidents and the confidence of teachers to implement a psychological first aid approach. Her interest has been to build capacity within schools to provide psychosocial support and facilitate resilience.  Currie, S., Hayes, B. (2021) Psychological Support for Schools following a crisis or disaster : The Journey of Recovery. BPS Publications. During the pandemic she has surveyed young people to ensure their voices are heard and joined with other services to speak up about it She has a longstanding interest in helping schools to include and support children and young people who are refugees. 

Dr Stevan Radoja Educational Psychologist

Dr Stevan Radoja is an Educational Psychologist who has spent most of his time an EP working in Northamptonshire. Broadly speaking, Stevan has had two components to his career, one as a practicing main grade local authority EP, the other engaging in research and fieldwork associated with war related trauma in children, mostly in Uganda and more recently with refugee Ukrainians in Slovakia and internally displaced population in Ukraine. Stevan’s initial focus was with children abducted in war and forced into becoming child soldiers or forced workers in Northern Uganda.

He then broadened his interest to other affected children and adolescents living in conflict zones. This work continued for approximately 12 years including 2 years based solely in Uganda. Stevan did his doctoral research on how schools can improve the mental health and emotional intelligence of children impacted by war and eventually wrote a manualised therapeutic curriculum  for that purpose with the backing of the Ugandan Ministry of Education.

More recently Stevan has been working with Ukrainian psychologists, social workers and teachers in an attempt to build a skilled workforce able to provide psychosocial support to Ukrainian CYP which is ongoing. Stevan is particularly interested in using local populations to support people in their care in providing evidence based psychology to mitigate the impact of conflict related trauma on CY


How can we support children and young people fleeing conflict zones and seeking asylum? The warm welcome is certainly a crucial start but what comes after this? Taking a psychosocial perspective and using the cognitive model of trauma we will look at how psychologists can support schools and families. Approaches at universal, targeted and specialist levels will be discussed. Ongoing risk and protective factors to consider for children and young people who are refugees will be examined and what children and young people themselves say helps.

Dr Katy Robjant (DClinPsy, PhD), Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Dr Katy Robjant (DClinPsy, PhD) is a consultant clinical psychologist specialising in trauma spectrum disorders amongst asylum seekers, refugees and survivors of human trafficking and torture. She has provided expert evidence extensively in British and European jurisdictions, to Governmental enquiries, and advised various UN bodies on the psychological impact of human rights abuses, including human trafficking and immigration detention. Having worked clinically in specialist trauma services within the NHS, she later implemented and directed regional trauma services across Eastern DRC for Vivo International and the University of Konstanz. She was Director of National Clinical Services at Freedom from Torture and is currently the Executive Director of Clinical and Counter Trafficking at the Helen Bamber Foundation. She has a number of publications in the area of trauma in relation to refugees and asylum seekers and current research activity includes RCTs of recent developments of Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET).

Kolbassia Haoussou - Survivor Empowerment Director, Freedom from Torture

Kolbassia began his career in campaigning and advocating when he co-founded the Survivor Speak OUT (SSO) network, a network led by survivors, campaigning for survivors. After a short while running, SSO came under the umbrella of Freedom from Torture and Kolbassia found himself employed with Freedom from Torture as SSO Coordinator.

Kolbassia was and has been instrumental in building Freedom from Tortures’ survivor activism and making sure survivors were centred in all aspects of the organisation.

After over 10 years of working at Freedom from Torture in the capacity of SSO Coordinator, Service User Champion and acting Survivor Activism Lead, Kolbassia is now the department head for the organisations newly founded Survivor Empowerment directorate.

In 2020 Kolbassia has received an MBE for service for torture and sexual violence survivors in the New Year honour list.


Torture is designed to silence, render powerless, oppress and terrify not just the individual survivor but the whole society. Human Rights abuses during war or in the context of human trafficking or other acts can result in significant psychological damage to individuals and communities. Rehabilitation for survivors therefore needs to have empowerment at it’s heart. This is important not only to counter the impact of these acts but also to manage the psychological sequalae that follows. With reference to the case example of the co-development of an evidence based clinical model at freedom from torture and it’s co-delivery with survivors, we will explore emerging themes, including challenges and advantages to the approach.

Dr Kerry Young, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Lead, Woodfield Trauma Service

Dr Kerry Young is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Lead of the Woodfield Trauma Service in London, UK, a leading centre for the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees suffering from PTSD. She also works at the Oxford Rose Clinic, a service for the medical and psychological treatment of women who have experienced Female Genital Mutilation. She has advised the UK government on how to train clinicians to work with refugees, PTSD and Complex PTSD. She trains nationally and internationally on how to treat PTSD, Complex PTSD and working with refugees and asylum seekers    


We know that PTSD is the most common diagnosis in treatment seeking refugees and asylum seekers.  Because they have experienced multiple traumatic events in their country of origin and during their escape, they often present to services with a complex PTSD presentation. This is characterized by high levels of dissociation and nightmares and flashbacks to many different events. Clinicians are often confused about how best to treat PTSD in this client group.

In this presentation, I will summarize the literature about treating PTSD in refugees and asylum seekers. Then, I will suggest an evidence-based pathway for clinicians to follow during treatment.


Programme Registration and coffee

9.30 Welcome Dr Anne Douglas Consultant Clinical Psychologist, BPS Crisis, Disaster & Trauma Section committee member

9.45 Prof Rachel Tribe University of East London: Working with interpreters - face-to-face and online or via the telephone

10.30 David Trickey Consultant Clinical Psychologist/Trauma Lead Northamptonshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services: Trauma and PTSD in children and adolescent refugees

11.15 Refreshment break

11.35 Dr Siobhan Currie and Dr Stevan Radoja Educational Psychologists Northamptonshire: What comes after the warm welcome? A review of interventions to support the mental health of children in educational settings

12.15 Panel Q and A

12.35 Lunch

1.35 -2.15 Kerry Young: Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Woodfield Trauma Service, CNWL NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK and Oxford Rose Clinic, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK: How to sequence trauma-focused treatments for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in adult refugees and asylum seekers

2.15 – 2.55 Prof Amina Memon Chair of Psychology Centre for Emotion and Law Royal Holloway University of London: Challenges in eliciting asylum narratives

2.55 Refreshment break

3.15 Dr Katy Robjant – Director of Clinical and Counter-trafficking Helen Bamber Foundation with Kolbassia Haoussou MBE Freedom from Torture: The co-development and co-delivery of rehabilitation services for survivors of Human Rights abuses

4.05 Q and A

4.25 Concluding remarks

4.30 Conference close

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