Correlates of Symptom Reduction in Treatment-Seeking Survivors of Torture

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torture treatment; program evaluation; refugees, trauma


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


While a growing body of literature addresses the psychological consequences of torture and war trauma, there are few empirical examinations of treatment for survivors of torture. This study offers a program evaluation of a comprehensive torture treatment program in New York City. We present literature surrounding the interdisciplinary “wraparound” approach to treating survivors of torture, and examine the relationship between clinical services and symptom reduction in a multinational sample of refugees (N=172) receiving treatment over a 6-month period. Clients were administered the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) during their intake interview and six months later. We found that approximately 45% (n=77) of treated clients displayed clinically significant improvement on either the HTQ, or the BSI subscales of Depression, Anxiety, or Somatization, over the six months following their intake evaluation. Generalized linear models revealed that gaining secure immigration status was the strongest correlate of clinical improvement. However, psychotherapy and attendance at educational sessions predicted improvement in symptoms beyond adjusting to a more secure immigration status. While this study’s correlational design does not establish that treatment caused the observed improvement, results point to the pivotal role of both clinical and “nonclinical” services and provide preliminary support for the value of an interdisciplinary approach. More research is needed to understand mechanisms of change and improvement in this sensitive population.

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