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UEL Conference 2020: Psychosocial theory and practice: What is the evidence?

The University of East London Conference 2020 provides a platform for forced migrants (including refugees, asylum seekers, those who have had the experience of being internally displaced, undocumented migrants and other people with a precarious immigration status), as well as scholars, researchers, policy makers and practitioners who work in the field (e.g. humanitarian workers, NGO workers, or service providers). This platform is intended to promote knowledge exchange, challenge existing conceptualisations of what ‘psychosocial’ means in relation to forced migration, and propose alternative psychosocial practices (particularly evidence-based interventions).

In the contemporary context, issues of forced migration and ‘the refugee’ have become symbolic of wider social, cultural, epistemic, economic, political and psychological processes. One example is the securitisation of migration, bordering practices and representing the refugee as an emergency, a crisis or a problem to be solved. If we are to participate and promote a more ethical approach, the context out of which psychosocial theory and practice emerges, should be critically deconstructed.

The Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) approach understands ‘mental health’ as existing within the individual psyche and ‘psychosocial’ as the interconnection between the person and their environment. In terms of the operationalisation of this paradigm, psychosocial support is often delivered through interventions that focus on behaviour, emotions, cognition, functioning and changes in relationships. Interventions themselves are varied, from women’s groups to one-to-one counselling. These interventions are also delivered by a wide range of actors – from professionals with no related training to specialists in the field. In summary the field of MHPPS is broad and complex, it is based on a particular understanding of what constitutes wellbeing, and its areas of policy and intervention are extremely diverse.

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