Abstract: Sharing Stories Eases Pain: Core Relational Processes of a Group Intervention and Syrian Refugees in Jordan (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Sharing Stories Eases Pain: Core Relational Processes of a Group Intervention and Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Mary Bunn, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Marsh Jeanne, PhD, Professor, University of Chicago
Background and Purpose: Group-based treatment for forced migrants is considered particularly useful for addressing the social and interpersonal consequences of war and forced migration. It can result in the development of new relationships, reduce social isolation and reestablish a sense of trust and social connection. Yet, to date, there has been limited investigation into relational processes and outcomes in group-based interventions for displaced refugees. The purpose of this study was to explore the nature and quality of relationships that develop in a group-based intervention for Syrian refugees in Jordan including identifying relational processes that facilitate social connection between group members. This presentation focuses on the cluster areas of international social work and global issues and immigrants and refugees. Further, as refugee migration and resettlement have become pressing global concerns, it highlights an emerging practice context and increasingly urgent area for social work research.

Methods: This interpretive qualitative study used a purposeful sampling approach focused on interviewing Syrian men and women who were living in Jordan and had participated in an interdisciplinary group-based intervention and treatment providers who facilitated the groups (n=31). The process for analyzing the data drew from grounded theory methods which focus on deconstructing, conceptualizing, and re-constructing the data in order to develop a core category that captures the story within the data.

Results: A core relational process, sharing stories eases pain, was derived from the data to explain how group members came to develop close, caring relationships, which led to other psychosocial benefits. Sharing stories involved group members exchanging experiences during the war, painful separations from family, friends and homeland, of life at home and future concerns. Forming caring relationships refers to the close caring relationships that were forged between group members through this process and which often endured beyond the 10-week intervention. These relationships led to a range of other psychosocial benefits described as easing pain, including emotional relief, a sense of belonging, and generating hope.

Conclusions and Implications: This empirical study is one of few focused on group treatment for survivors of war and forced migration and among the first to focus on relationships and relational processes. The findings are expected to fill an important gap in the group-treatment literature and advance understanding of group relationships as an active interpersonal ingredient promoting. Findings also suggest that group-based treatment may be uniquely suited to address some of the broader, social-relational consequences of conflict and forced migration. Further mixed methods research is needed to evaluate group practice models with survivors of torture and war in humanitarian contexts.