Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Mary Nienow


Social Work


This exploratory qualitative study examines various culturally specific interventions practitioners use to support the mental health needs of adolescent immigrants and refugees. Studies have noted that resilience, family involvement, peer support, art-based interventions, school-based interventions, and accessible community resources are all protective factors that promote positive mental health outcomes for adolescents adjusting to a new host country. The researcher conducted eight semi-structured interviews with three licensed clinical social workers (LICSW), one licensed graduate social worker (LGSW), one psychotherapist with a doctorate in psychology, a school counselor, and two clinical counselors. All of the participants of the study serve the refugee and immigrant adolescent population directly. The author used an analytic induction method, transcribing and coding the interviews with the research Chair for reliability checks. Seven themes emerged in the literature to analyze for this study: 1) Protective Factors 2) Parent/Family Involvement in the Adolescent’s Therapeutic Process 3) Expressive Arts Interventions 4) Multi-Disciplinary Teams 5) Group Work 6) Cultural Brokers 7) Culturally Responsive Clinician. There were four additional themes that emerged from the data collection: 1) Not enough providers 2) Parents misunderstanding of the mental health provider’s role 3) Physical Discipline 4) Mindfulness Interventions. The study found culturally responsive clinicians are using interventions that acknowledge the protective factors and build off of these factors in their treatment of adolescent immigrants and refugees. Clinicians who are immigrants themselves, bilingual, or bicultural were found to be more culturally competent. However, the systemic barriers that immigrant and refugee families face, the cultural stigma, language barriers and parents’ lack of education make it challenging for immigrant and non-immigrant clinicians to implement culturally relevant interventions such as involving parents in the treatment. The INTERVENTIONS FOR ADOLESCENT IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES 4 study found the use of multi-disciplinary teams and group work interventions are rare, despite clinicians’ awareness of their efficacy and desire to implement them in practice. Additional practice-based and evidence-based, empirical research pertaining to the efficacy and effectiveness of culturally appropriate, applied treatments specifically for the adolescent immigrants and refugees is greatly needed.

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