Treatment and rehabilitation of severely traumatized refugees

Varvin, S., & Rosenbaum, B. (2011). Severely traumatized patients’ attempt at reorganizing their relations to others in psychotherapy. In Freedman, N. Hurvich, M., & & Ward, R. (Eds.), Another Kind of Evidence (pp. 167-182). London: Karnac Books.
Varvin S. (2011) Phenomena or data? Qualitative and quantitative research strategies in psychoanalysis. Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 34, 117-123
Varvin, S. (2013). Psychoanalyse mit Traumatisierten. Weiterleben nach Extremerfahrungen und kompliziertem Verlust {Psychoanalysis with the traumatised patient:  Helping to survive extreme experiences and complicated loss}. Forum der Psychoanalyse, 29, 372-389.

This is prospective treatment study of traumatized refugees. The aim is to follow them through two treatment modalities: ordinary outpatient treatment and treatment in psychoanalytic therapy in order to get knowledge on the following topics: personality and extreme traumatization, influence of early (childhood) traumatization and later traumatization, influence of context (especially acculturations stress in exile) on process and outcome, on what works in psychotherapy with extreme traumatized persons.

It is a naturalistic study with no random assignment. The more severely ill patients get psychoanalytic therapy mostly as outpatient clinics did not offer adequate treatment.


Fifty-four mental health patients with refugee and trauma background were recruited to the study, 35 men and 19 women (response rate 70 %). The participants came from 15 different countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa. They had a mean stay in Norway of about 11 years, ranging from ½ to 28 years.


After being accepted for treatment, patients with refugee and trauma background referred to treatment in mental health specialist services either outpatient clinics (treatment as usual) or psychoanalytic private practice treatment.

Research assessment was performed at treatment start (T1), yearly during treatment, at termination (T2), after three years (T4), after five years (T5). Therapists were interviewed with semi-structured interviews after one year (T3), yearly as long as the treatment lasted, and after termination of treatment (T2).


Multi method, based on quantitative and qualitative methods.


Sverre Varvin

Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences


Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, Oslo, Norway